Every time I log into Facebook I cannot help but wonder about the same thing- how did we purposefully waste time prior to the FB onslaught? How did we wish our friends and family on their birthdays? How did we announce the arrival of a new family member or our new flashy car? Or tell the world about our great holiday destination or what we had for breakfast or the hippest new joint we went to for dinner? How did we play games without applications like Zynga Poker, Farmville, Criminal Case etc? How did we, in fact, have a social life?
Not limited to simply sharing, Facebook has taken the whole concept of PDA to a new level. It is no longer just a Public Display of Affection but a public display of everything. The age old Hindi adage of “Neki kar dariya mein daal” has now become “Kuch kar na kar, Facebook par zaroor daal”. So you have people wishing their spouse on birthday or anniversary, with picture of gifts received or given,to boot, even though the spouse is living under the same roof; people expressing love for or thanking their parents, children, siblings, friends ; people announcing grandly how they survived 2-3 days in the “wilderness” without any internet or updating their status to tell everyone how they are enjoying a movie or a beautiful natural spectacle or on a more sombre note, informing all about a trip to the hospital- this is communication at its easiest and yet its weirdest.
To say that we are living in a “Facebook Centric” world may not be an overstatement. More often than not, our day begins and ends with simply ‘checking’ Fb. You may not post, like or ‘do’ anything but checking it is almost an addiction. Fb has allowed us to locate and be ‘virtually’ in touch with people we may otherwise not care to know about let alone share our life and its ups and downs with. Or as a friend joked, Fb has wrecked more marriages and relationships today than mother in laws could in the past! Locating exes or finding new people who ignite your interest is easier than buying groceries. And so is “liking” a friend’s photograph of trip to Disneyland than actually taking out time to meet that friend for some quality time together. Yes..life, and socialising, was never so virtual and never so easy.
Is it just a reflection of changing times or symptomatic of some deeper malaise in our society that today we have more friends on Fb than in real life; that we give more thought to what shampoo we use than to what information we post? What is it that prompts people to share their lives on Fb by way of status updates, likes, comments or tagging? Showing off is one part of it though the answer I often hear in defence is that people are just “sharing” what they want to with their near and dear ones; there is no public display at work here it is argued. But is it really so simple? Have we ever given it a serious thought? I doubt it. For if we did, we’d realise that the information we put is on one hand of far more personal nature than we realise and on the other hand more for the purpose of bragging than actual ‘sharing’. If we were to sit face to face with those very “friends” we share information with on Fb, the chances are that we won’t tell them 90% of what we put on Fb. With a novel and impersonal way of communicating, we share more than what we ordinarily would. Nothing is personal anymore; nothing is sacrosanct. We are willing to share everything- where we are, who we are with, what we think, what we feel without realising that anything we put up there – a picture, a status update, a location- is out in the open, regardless of our personal privacy settings- there really is no point in screaming later about privacy being violated.
What makes me sit back and reflect however is the nagging thought that today our lives are so busy yet so lonely, so full of activity yet so bereft, that our basic human need for sharing, loving and caring is met on line than in our daily real lives. We may not know of a death in our own neighbourhood but thanks to Fb, we will know of an Audi a long lost acquaintance has bought; we have no one nearby to share our grief with so we update our status to tell about an ailing parent’s hospitalisation or have no one to share our joy with so we talk about our 10th wedding anniversary on Fb. A few “likes”, a few “comments” fulfil our desire for companionship through all times good and bad. It’s almost like a validation of our existence.
Did Mark Zuckerberg think so much before he unleashed Fb on us? Did he realise that what he was creating from his dormitory room would forever change the way we live? Probably not. Just like we don’t realise how much of our waking moments we needlessly while away on it. Thank you indeed Mark Zuckerberg for revolutionising the way we kill a precious commodity like time. Oh!!Let me check how many “likes” has the photograph of that annoying colleague of mine got..humph !!