POINT OF VIEW
By Shobha De
How many ‘Friends’ do you need?
This is a sheepish confession : I do have a naam ke vaastey 'Facebook' presence. It was created by my canny publishers a few years ago since they believed it was important for their authors to have a presence on social networking sites. (“It is the future . . .. .” I was assured by the marketing team). I took their word for it and withdrew my protest. The children were aghast and alarmed (I was seen as an intruder into their space), till I assured them I had zero intention of being active on that site. Relieved but not totally convinced, they went back to FB, hoping and praying I'd stay out of their hair and turf. I did. But would my publishers have any of it? I was told my FB account would be managed by someone responsible . . . . . and that was that. Or so I thought. Weeks later I found myself in an elevator with people who were total strangers. One of them extended his hand and greeted me familiarly, adding “We are Facebook friends! You accepted my friends' request recently . . . thanks a lot.” I gulped, recovered a little, smiled weakly and hastily got off on the wrong floor. This became a ridiculous routine till I asked for help. “Take me off the damn thing,” I pleaded with my minders. But would they listen? I finally managed to access the home page only to discover to my absolute horror that I now had over 5,000 new 'friends' and several 'friends' waiting for a green signal to go ahead. There were hundreds of 'common friends' and God knows how many people in different categories pushing products, ideas, paintings, poetry, themselves!!! This was the world's biggest flea market . . .. . and I was one of the fleas!
Terrifying, right? Precisely. I was so traumatized by the discovery of all these newly minted friends, I promptly went into denial and refused to access my account after that. It's a terrible admission, because I know it is still there – active, alive and kicking. I meet people who tell me they've read my columns on Facebook . . . . . and I smile vaguely. Obviously those marketing chaps are on the job, updating, chopping, changing, responding, ignoring, 'unfriending', poking, gifting . . . . . and generally indulging in whatever it is Facebook addicts are hooked on to. I'm out of it . . . . . . was never on it . . . . . . and after watching absolutely brilliant film (The Social Network) currently running at a friendly neighbourhood multiplex, I am mighty glad I resisted the temptation to lose my mind and steered clear of what has become a global social disease that spares nobody. People my age coo and gurgle with delight after tracing some long lost creep from their youth or connecting with old school friends, decades later. “It's amazing! I've found soooo many long lost friends after year,” they declare proudly. I don't have the heart to say, “If they'd meant anything to you, you wouldn't have lost contact in the first place.”
And to think it was one crazy genius from Harvard name Mark Zuckerberg (a billionaire at 25 – top that!) who started it all. Culprit? Devil? Angel?