Social contaminant

“Hai… I’d like to be your friend at bipasha.com (not the real name of the social networking site)” screamed the message as I opened the in-box after a gap of nearly a month and felt glad that it wasn’t spewing dust or cracking in the corners due to rust. It was long time since I had opened this particular ID, which I’m afraid of viewing frequently since I use this one as the garbage dump; the unwanted ID I don’t mind giving out to those who are unlikely to mail me or whose mails I’m unlikely to read.

The sense of curiosity was almost overwhelming as the eager fingers guided the curser to the inbox and snapped twice to open it. It was almost like opening the attic after several decades. What’s hidden there? A lovely mail from a friend lost in the meaningless rush of life? A chance meeting with a friend-to-be?

Excitement melted like frost in the morning sun on seeing it. Alright, someone wanted to be my friend on a social networking site. If it were just that single request to open the mail, click the link and go through the cumbersome registration procedure to be friends with that one person, I wouldn’t have minded it.

On the contrary, there were five requests — one from a friend I frequently bump-in, one from an unknown person and another from a friend’s friend’s friend who exchanged a half-heard hello in a get together. Besides cursing the social networking sites and a few of my friends (who won’t mind about the curses) for spamming my rarely-opened in-box, the increasing requests to connect on the social networking sites also triggered a thought about the phenomena which seem to be turning rapidly from a curious online trend to a contaminant.

Of course, we are more connected with friends and family than ever before; without calling them or bothering them in any way, we can find out where they are and what they do; declaring births and bereavements on social networking sites are certainly becoming the order of the day. And yes, how can we forget the literary trend microblogging sites like Twitter have created.

But how can we also connect with the same friend in three or four different sites? Forget the stupid feeling while groping through the registration form and the misfortune of having to do it again and again, how can we find time to maintain that many social networking accounts while we can’t even spend a few moments tidying up our in-boxes? “You don’t find time to respond to my mails,” complained an associate — who is more a contact for gathering information than a friend. It was hard to explain the logic behind ignoring such requests. The best way is to feign surprise and ask: ‘‘Oh when did you send it?”

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