‘Un-social’ Networking

So what is your Facebook Id? A simple question posed to me by an ex-colleague of mine to which I replied in a negative. The raised eyebrow, enlarged eyes and an odd face staring at me told me quite a story of ‘social networking’.

Look around and almost everybody is on one or the other social networking site. Be it my wife’s eighty-five year old grand uncle or a good friend’s one year old son. There are children as young as six years old that are on such sites and happily ‘networking’ with other kids their age and preferably somebody older. There are more than a few features of a social networking site that intrigues me but the one aspect that interests me the most and makes me wonder in amazement – the friends’ list. I have seen a few of my friends have at least 500 profiles on their friends list and they are mighty proud about it. Does s/he even know who these 500 people are? Is it not that at any given point of time, a person can handle only a certain number of individuals? Out of these there are a few who are completely non-negotiable i.e. relatives, colleagues, taxi/auto drivers, bus conductors, maids etc. Why would then one be inclined, find time, expend energy to add so many people on the ‘friends’ list? Surely, they aren’t all really good friends whom you want to know everything about. Or are they?

This brings me to the basic aspect that is a bit discomforting with such social networking sites. Just recently I had a chance meeting with a copy writer friend of mine who works at a leading ad agency in Mumbai. Let us name him Vishal. He had an interesting tidbit to narrate. About a year back, Vishal got a message on his profile from a long-lost friend, settled in US. That friend had wanted to get in touch with Vishal and had been looking for him for over a year now, calling up common acquaintances/friends etc. and good that he found him on Facebook. Vishal the emotional chap that he is – promptly sent across his mobile number so that the long lost friend could have a heart felt conversation with him. That was about a year back; Vishal is still waiting to hear from the long-lost friend – either on the phone or even on the social networking site. This definitely is the rule and I am quite sure most readers who are on such sites faced this in one form or the other. This seriously got me thinking. If that long lost friend was so interested to know where Vishal is, or how he is, or wanted to have a chat with him, shouldn’t he have called back the instant he received Vishal’s mobile number. Did he never intend to call Vishal, if not, then what was the basic reason behind the message?

So, now some moot points. If a person is really interesting to meet or chat up – wouldn’t one rather meet in person or talk over the phone? What good would it serve to just put a static ‘hi’ or ‘hello, what’s up?’ on the other person’s profile and wait for him/her to respond? Is it that people like being passive in nature or the idea of ‘just keeping in touch’ is of primary importance? Does it not go against the grain of what relationships are all about? It is natural for a person to want to meet or talk to somebody whom s/he likes and finds interesting – meet being the operative word here – not put a post on the person’s profile. I can clearly understand that meeting or talking over the phone isn’t possible if the distance is long i.e. the other person is abroad or in a different city. But then whatever happened to e-mail? Isn’t e-mail or a chat program the best way to interact rather than having staccato post on a social networking site? As the case with Vishal’s friend, maybe it was just a post that he put – maybe he never meant a word that he wrote. Maybe it was just some casual banter that ensues between individuals. Maybe he was just being nice to Vishal. It appears then that these sites are able to perpetrate the air of fakeness and still come across as genuine on the outside – the same old idea of ‘being nice’ than being true. The sad flip side of it all is that these social networking sites are just the messengers and the handlers behind them are real people like us.

So, do we construe by all this that people inherently aren’t genuine about their true feelings?


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