My Social Experiment

I quit facebook. Yes, today morning, that was the first thing I did. I was contemplating my move for several weeks now and finally decided that I should. You might say the timing is awry with all the technology enthusiasts claiming that facebook was indeed the future and Zuckerberg winning all Time’s man of the Year and all,but the fact is that I feel that facebook has gone from fun to addictive to an addiction which you stopped enjoying long back. I remember when I sat in the BITS library one afternoon four years back and my friend created the facebook account for me. “Its good fun, you’ll enjoy it” was my first introduction to what became a fun-filled addiction, and then decayed into a part which I had to go and check everyday without an iota of interest. I sat contemplating my life pre-facebook life and realized it was so much more fun and satisfying. I remember being far less connected to the world and the word “friends” retained its meaning. I took pictures so that I could remember the place and memories, not to create a photo album where seemingly random people could like or post comments. I liked the part where we lived as a huge student community on DC++ but then although it was virtual, people were real and exclusive and that made it so unique. Facebook sadly does none of those.

Contrary to all the blah about getting people together, connecting them or making it a source for targeted advertising, the truth remains that facebook threatens to break the basic construct of societies and communities. It might help to be professionally connected to a lot of people ( I like Linkedin for that reason, that it has a professional touch and aims to do something important rather than just make people pour out secrets just to garner attention), but for so many to invade your privacy, I always thought was a bad idea. You might say that on facebook you can choose what you want to share, but that is not how it works. Friends are supposed to come and go and the really good ones should stick to you, on or off facebook. Instead this just agglomerates contacts and in the process fills a page with information about three kinds of contacts you make: people you know really well( very few and far inbetween and plus for those people you don’t wait for their updates on facebook, you’ll know it otherwise), those you added as a friend because you went to school together (I had 700+ friends when I left facebook, out of those, the ones who knew me..err 50 max?), or those people you dont know at all but are related through a long routed connection which makes it creepy. It was all good in college when you knew a handful, your friends were that exact handful and you wasted summers by playing random quizzes and guffawing at their absurd results. That is one kind of fun. But now as one’s friends’ circle increases, extends to professional contacts, is the extent of information being shared safe? Is it normal? Do you want your college friends to know your past school life? Do you want your current colleagues to know about your ponytail, weird looks, tattoos or your girlfriend back in college? To most people, the answer would be no. The reason behind this is that identities evolve over time as people do. Experience, time and place affect a person and change him/her to a great extent. What facebook sadly does is drag the baggage of your past and splatter it on the walls of people you dont want to share all that with. This isn’t tantamount to split personality or anything, but everyone has a past that remains exclusive to them and I am sure they would want to share their memories and persona then with their friends from that time. It is surprising that I find school farewell photos of some college friends appearing on my wall giving me access to the thread of comments, links of people tagged with the photo and a chance to comment on something that is totally unrelated to me. I choose to ignore it, but someone who is on my friend’s list (added because I studied 15 years ago in his/her same school and have no information about him right now) can do weird things with it. Nothing of that sort happened which prompted my exit, but I find myself subconciously recording people’s experiences and information, and loads of it everyday which seems to be unnatural and wasting space. Who doesn’t like to catch up with old friends (the real ones)? But to see acquaintances’ daily lives publicly bared, seems insane.

The most important part being that honestly, facebook is pushing people apart. It is giving you information that you can get about people without knowing them at all. It reduces friends to a set of data about their location, current occupation and interest giving you no reason to connect with them at all. The phone calls that you would have once made to inquire about their well being is now not needed. It is only a matter of time before orkut-like stalkers appear on facebook gaining access to basic information like your looks and even your email id. Call it however safe you want, I am not comfortable sharing this much information (it wasn’t like I was forced to, but slowly your profile builds up over the years as you add photos, share articles, get tagged in pics) with a bunch of people in California who can give it to anyone they want to. (Anyone= companies). Whatever revolution that Zuckerberg talks about might be happening, but there are severe downsides to it. Robberies have already started ( I know people who posted “bought a Macbook – yippeee” on their walls being robbed the next day or the vacation date-givers surely so) and a lot of faking has already begun. People post and write things out of a compulsion to attract attention. They try to create a virtual image so much cooler than their physical selves (aided by a lot of googling) that it seems absurd at time when you read about unexpected interests from folks you know (World Cups -cricket or football, prime examples). Photos on facebook are a totally different chapter. People post seemingly un-proper photos (in lesbian poses, body-baring outfits being the top categories) without a second thought about their audience. Other photos that seem so private like weddings, honeymoons, babies, ultrasounds( Yes, not kidding. One guy had actually put his baby’s ultrasound as his profile pic to announce his conception! – again someone I hardly knew but a bunch of my friends had congratulated him for the same.) are posted in abandon. How really safe is it out there?

This is just my opinion of it all and of course people will have different things to say or even justify how this is all good or call it fun(which as I have already said,it was but now isn’t). But take a peek back into your pre-facebook/twitter lives and maybe you’ll see what I saw, how much genuine and complete that phase was compared to now. If you feel this is better, I am no one to ask you to quit, but contrary to this social networking being a phenomena, it is also having a huge under-belly propagated by no one but the human psyche.

Plus, I really wasted a lot of time on it. As my friend put it, it had come close to becoming a OCD.

De-facebooking is not like becoming a social recluse. I still am very much alive and active and within reach of those who want to. As Capt. Jack Sparrow said about the Isles De Muerta, “It is found only by those who know where it is”. (Sorry folks, couldn’t resist 😛 )

PS: This one really cracked me up!
Hilariously true


Finally, my semester began today. It is a surprising thing to say but I’ve been waiting for it this time. My schedule looks terrible, classes are even tougher and I’ve a huge looming proposal ahead of me but weirdly I couldn’t wait to get started. Last Monday, when my semester was officially set to begin, I wanted some more free time. Some time to chill and relax and bask in the calm before the storm. But due to the sudden snowmaggedon that Atlanta was subjected to (really, it was snow-dumping and not falling – more than 5 inches in just 3 hours) and the subsequent icecalypse that followed, it started a week late. Ive never seen so much ice, sheets and sheets of it, solid, permitting not a car on the road, not a soul could walk anywhere unless you knew ice skating. Entire football fields, car parks converted into ice rinks which refused to melt! So we got a week off, not without homeworks already posted and classes held on skype. (Yes, yes I’m not kidding, they really were). Some things happen only@tech!

So yea, I was back to justifying my cheer. I realize that if holidays are suddenly imposed on you, gone are the days you’d happily laze at home watching cars and people skid and slumber away to glory. I was restless to get back to my stuff, hating the delay despite having a stash of movies to watch, a hundred things I could have done. Funny person I am.

On a totally random note, with the end of the Margazhi masam, the wedding season has begun. It meant a succession of kalayanam sapadu and long drives amid choked roads to far-off mandapams. But this year, a lot of my friends (or acquaintances more technically) are getting married. Gosh! those are the girls who I played foot-cricket with, sat next to in class, distributed notebooks to and shared lunch with. Married?! That was for older people. Really matured folks who knew what to do in life, were ready to cook food on a daily basis, maintain a home and someday have kids and all that. It is so hard to believe they are married or are excited about it. So that should technically mean, I am in the “marriage-able” age too right? But I feel nothing of the sort. I expected a sort of enlightenment to surround me the day I am ready for such a commitment. Nothing so far. I cannot imagine having a home to run, a husband (EEEEEKS!!!), suddenly being in the married bracket of society who is off-limits for any kind of wild partying,dating or flirting. Beyond imagination. Definitely. My facebook page that had begun to resemble engagement albums, now has started looking like a slide-show of marriage-albums. I flip through the snaps looking exasperatedly at the bride, remembering how she looked the last time I had seen her, and the coy smiles, expensive sarees and the smug husband who now stood next to her and how they were now man and wife, seen by the society in a totally different light and all grown up and MARRIED. Enough of a shock for me to close the window and breathe deep. Shyte. One more bites the dust.

I’m not saying it is wrong to get married. Of course, it is a fundamental requirement of any society.It scares me that I am already in the age group of people tying the knot. Have we all grown up so soon? Physically and age-wise, probably. But mentally and emotionally – dont count me in!

Well coming back to me,this year is so exciting sports wise – Australian Open (please please please Federer – continue your streak at the Aussie Open, I cannot take another Nadal win !) followed by the World Cup in Indian subcontinent. It is the last chance for God personified aka Sachin Tendulkar to win it for us. That would be the ultimate glory in his already feathered cap and India can really build a temple for him (that they can already for all his greatness) . I feel Ayodhya issue can be solved peacefully if they actually do build one for him.Nothing brings Indians closer than cricket and I think nobody has a complaint against Sachin. I am excited about this world cup. With the Aussies on the downward slope, we have a good chance.

I know this post is random but I have some really interesting things I want to write about. I will, shortly. This semester, I’m determined not to waste this space.

Right now, I cannot get ‘Dil toh baccha hai ji’ out of my mind or playlist. Fabulous.

To my dearest little Bikki and Paneerselvam

Loss is always hard. Especially when it is that of a pet you so dearly loved. In a span of three weeks I lost both my pets – my fish and my cutest little hamster. My fish died suddenly Christmas morning. To see my fish like that floating lifelessly curved in a peculiar way was so hard. Hell, why am I calling it a fish. He had a name – Paneerselvam. Not a very hep name but it is my way of connecting with remote and ancient Tamil Nadu. He wasnt that active from the beginning and I suspected I had an old fish from the start. But he used to swim upto the surface everytime I came close or hide in his plant when the light was too bright. He used to wait impatiently for his food and frolic in delight by swimming furiously through the bowl when the water was new. I will never know what killed him. “It is only a fish”, “Fishes are like that only”was said in consolation,but I missed having my bright blue fighter fish waiting for his food every morning in his bowl. I miss him.

My hamster was even more tragic. I could not cope with her sudden loss for nearly half a week. She was by far the cutest hamster I’ve ever seen. (Yes, Ive seen a lot of them since I always scout the Small Animal section of every pet store religiously). She was soft and pretty and curled into a cute ball when she ate her food or groomed herself rigorously. She used to snatch nuts and treats from me, loved to run on my table and wait every morning hanging on the metal wires of her cage asking me to open it. Her life was cut short abruptly and I found her lifeless and cold on the floor of her cage. She was breathing, but only just. I tried to warm her, held her close to me praying for her to revive. She opened her eyes and looked at me,all pale and helpless. That image is ingrained in my head. She died on my palm and you have no idea how hard it was to see her like that. That cute little bikki who escaped from her cage and hid under the kitchen sink and behind suitcases, who chewed up the carpet and made instant holes in my T-shirt, the little monster who got snappy if you didnt play with her for a while and the super lazy bum who had to be woken up at times and fed. I miss her so much. I miss calling out to her every night or drumming the sides to disturb her.I loved buying her new treats from the store and watching her expression as she had them for the first time or loved the way she’d follow me everywhere in her ball and apologizing if I accidentally kicked it. I liked the way she’d come out and watch me brush my teeth every morning and enjoy me stroking her head gently. She liked sitting in front of the fan in the summer and loved being held near the heaters in the winter. I will never know what happened to her so suddenly. She might have been old (yes she had become extremely lazy) or choked on something she ate. I love you bikki. You have no idea how much I miss you.

I realized how the presence of a small pet changes our life. I never paid attention to these small things they did that made me so happy and you never realize how much you miss them unless they are not with you. I miss my dog terribly but that is one thing I have still not learnt to live with. I live with the fact that he is extremely happy and pampered at home and never tire of seeing him on skype until he gets bored and walks away. Gosh, whisky I wish you knew. I miss my fish and hamster equally but know for a fact that they were happy. I did and cared all I could and made their lives comfortable. I am more than thankful to them for coming into mine and making it worthwhile. I know people who squeal when I showed them bikki or looked away when I showed my fish. But to me they were precious. Any pet of mine is and losing them is very very hard.

I know this isnt a new year’s post or a post thanking 2010 for what it gave me but I dearly miss my pets. They were a small way for me to compensate for not being around Whisky. I will move on, but Bikki and PS, will always remain with me, just like my fishes from the aquarium I had as a little kid which I remember, my cat Pintu and my dogs Fluffy and Blackie. I love you all. I will not forget you.

(Gosh whisky, why can’t you somehow be allowed in an airplane cabin and fly straight to Atlanta. That day would be the best day of my life. Second only to the day I got you.)

PS: I got myself two female fishes (apparently female bettas are calmer and can exist in groups) so here is introducing Paneerselvi & Komalavalli. (Nice names no? :D) I am still searching for that perfect Teddy Bear Hamster who had the same colours as my Bikki. Hopefully next week my cage would be full of life again. 🙂

Happy 2011 Folks. Hope your lives are enriched and enjoyed far more than the last!