Confessions of a Facebook junkie

VIRTUAL FRIENDSHIP

Confessions of a Facebook junkie

It’s a lonely Saturday evening and I’m sitting with a glass of wine, feeling sorry for myself till Facebook’s bright blue bordered home page hits me head on. Right across, I see Prithvi from Boston with his story of El Grande the sentient Mexican palm that talks to people and to the birds. He has posted his blog which is waiting to be read. It’s competing for my attention along with Rashmi the wide-smiled Vasudeva from Swansea, who wants to tell me all about her shoes (or, at least, someone’s shoes – I haven’t figured it out yet) on her very own blog post. There’s “Aaja Panchi akela hai,” a sweet Rafi song from a Dev Anand film that Richa the Delhi-based artist has posted with the message “Yesterday once more”. As I wait for it to upload I notice that Jyoti has just returned from the film Delhi Belly with a migraine and a review and Dipti still seems lost in the world of extreme astrophysics and the importance of silence while seeking answers – whether outside (in outer space) or inside (I think, she means soul). She has posted a clip from an Anil Ananthaswamy lecture that I want to listen to right after I’m through with the Dev Anand song.

Elsewhere in the world, there’s Meg, Leicester-based Ros’ little puppy yelping and scampering naughtily around her green lawn getting her tummy tickled by the kids in a home video and hey! Sanju has been blessed with a baby. He has put up an album of the new arrival that I absolutely must see. When I saw him last in real life, Sanju himself was just a little older than the baby he is holding in the picture and that makes me sentimental. Now, of course, on his Facebook profile shot the proud papa is sporting a moustache a Rathore king in Rajasthan would be proud of. I hunt around for Noopur, my diva cousin, who recently shifted from Ahmedabad to Kuala Lumpur. I know she’s alone too because PJ (Piyush Jeejs — the husband) is on a trip home. Ah! There she is spending a day with her gym girlfriends looking quite gorgeous in a new blue polka dotted dress that I immediately plan to flick when I meet her in Bali later this year. I miss Renee my vivacious pal from kindergarten days but it’s a Saturday evening and she’s probably out socialising. No wait, there she is, making a cheeky comment on my status message. I type out a retort. There’s a quick ping and she has appeared on the chat window as if my magic with a “Hey! What are you doing on Facebook on a Saturday?”
It’s just another evening on Facebook and I wonder why they call them virtual friends.

They tell you stories, they sing you songs, they miss you when you’re not around, they make you smile when you’re upset, they make you laugh when you want to cry. They even give you company when you are alone at home and the hubby’s gone gallivanting to a pub in Bangalore. Can it get more real than that? Facebook has changed our lives beyond recognition and if we leave the party now it will only be for another social network (Yes, I can see Google + pulling up its socks from right behind). And only if all our hundred plus friends and relatives are migrating as well.

Facebook has redefined friendships. And no, it’s not taking families away from each other all the time; it’s also bringing them closer. Every afternoon, in a small town in Punjab, nine-year-old Saransh comes back from school, has a quick bath and lunch and then sits down for an hour of playtime on Farmville, where he grows strawberries, rice, cotton and a host of other vegetables. To help him around, water his plants and feed them fertilizers he has Bunty mama, who has a virtual farm next door. In real life, Bunty mama migrated to London long before Saransh was born but the two have bonded over Facebook games, in spite of having met each other only twice.

Noopur, the KL-based diva, I mentioned earlier often gets a cheeky wall post from Paper Bag, her 19-year old son who is doing a media internship in South Korea. “Mom, need to talk to you; 9 pm tonight? Malaysia time?” “Sure” she types, adds a smiley as an afterthought and clicks the like icon on his post. Then closing the tab, she gets back to the stuffed capsicum dish she is baking for her husband’s lunch. No, Facebook isn’t taking our kids away from us, its bringing them closer too. What is more, it is also making the warm embrace of the great Indian family a little warmer by bringing granddads, grannies, little kids, uncles, aunts, working sons and daughters who have migrated all over the world together in a group hug that keeps them in touch with what the others are up to.

Those breathless Facebook virgins who believe that frustrated middle aged people are only making indecent proposals there are mistaken. That might be happening too but only with mutual consent. There is an option to ignore, block or report unwanted attention so it’s not such a big deal. And you’re not a kid anymore. So grow up. You can avoid unwanted attention anytime you want. And seek it anytime you want as well. A social network is just another excuse.

And now, if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to the video that Tina has posted of her belly dancing class; tell Reema where she can pick up a long flowery skirt for the summer; decipher the cryptic message sent by mad skydiver Satyendra who likes playing mind games; post my reaction to Julie’s status update on the Murdoch mess and make a sad face on Col JB’s romantic video that says he’s missing his wife in his deserted post on the China border.

Did I say lonely Saturday evening? A mere slip of the typing fingers. Make that lovely Saturday evening. When you are between friends even an uncomfortable computer chair feels like a bean bag in a lounge bar.

Vital statistics

Facebook is the top social networking site in the world today with more than 750 million active users. According to Facebook, 50 per cent of their active users log on on any given day; an average user has 130 friends and people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Facebook is followed by Twitter that has about  200 million users. A lot of analysts believe that Facebook is dying which is the destiny of any social networking site since people lose interest after a while and move on. The question now is if that death blow will be dealt by Google+, the site launched by Google Inc. recently.

It is estimated that Google+ has had 20 million unique visitors since its launch. The growth has impressed observers because access to it is by invitation only, meaning people can join only if a current member invites them. And the company hasn’t yet marketed the service to the more than one billion monthly visitors who use its search engine, Gmail and other services.

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