It’s an equal ploy by all the social media sites to grab my attention, my eyeballs and my waking hours – and quite successful they are at it too. Less than four years ago, I didn’t know that these two terms existed, and now social media has overtaken my daily routine in a manner quite like how you grow fond of a street dog that you have semi-adopted.
Let me illustrate. Traditionally, I am not a social or outdoorsy person. I like curling up with a good Gothic or Historical novel, with a high-on-fat junk food accompanying the hand’s flippity page turning. So, I have fewer people whom I call friends, and even fewest whom I consider worthy enough to share my daily routine with. My professional life follows the same pattern with the hand pathologically doing a traditional jazz on the keyboard and six to seven breaks taking care of the odd catching up with colleagues routine, luncheons and nature calls.
Along came Orkut in 2003-04, and enticed me with its “sit-at-your-desk” and collect friends bargaining chip and I played right into it. Here was a service which allowed me to connect with long-lost acquaintances, neighborhood playmates, coaching class buddies, never-really-friends school mates, traveling companions from train and bus journeys, childhood romping mates and all the other faces that have peopled my memories and populated my growing up years. I could peek right into their lives, take a measure of their friends and what they have made of their selves through their photos and hourly conversations.
I did my bit by putting up the choices of photographs – all in a vanity bid to promote my talent – and posted witty remarks wherever there was a barren lack of anything stimulating on my friend’s conversation page. Altruistic intentions apart, it kept me occupied, it made me feel important and valued and I could now keep tabs on all the activities taking place in my extended circle’s world at one place! Let’s not forget, hourly updates also meant the end to expensive phone bills for long distance friends, hour long phone conversations and hurried catch-up meetings with near-by pals – all of them were just an Orkutting away!
Facebook and Flickr followed in quick succession in 2004, and although I didn’t know it at that time, LinkedIn had made a virtual name for itself beginning 2003. In the next few years, I had discarded Orkut like a cream gone sour and Facebook was barely there on my mental radar, save for those annoying “friend requests” that popped up in my gmail at regular intervals. When I was at my most busy professionally, I really didn’t find the time or need to keep myself hooked on to these social media sites. That vacuum that exists within most of us – a need to be connected with someone, to have steady companionship or to have people whom you can always count on – kind of gets nulled when you are busy being productive with your energy.
In the lull that followed my break from work and then losing my singledom to marriagehood, I slowly got hooked on to social media networking! Now isn’t that comparable to addiction or drugs or some form of dependency behavior? Hmm, not to get too philosophical out here, but in the spaces between productive life is where I turned to virtual succor again. I reconnected with online regulars whom I had dis-orkutted, and un-Facebooked and non-LinkedIn two years ago. With an abandon that I thought was uncharacteristic of me, I also connected with people whom I shared similar interests with – art historians, museum professionals, graphic designers, amateur photographers, homegrown writers and window-sill poets. This was new for me, to have the freedom to connect with like-minded hobbyists whom you could have conversations with, not necessarily personal, but in a way, engaging, stimulating, intellectual, fruitful and purposeful.
When I entered my second innings with a corporate house, I cut back on my social networking time once again and gleefully ignored all the updates, requests, Likes, Pokes, gifts, quizzes, questions, photologs, chat conversations and myriad other updates of my collection of virtual faces. Honestly, I simply couldn’t be bothered to know what they were up to – and why should it? People whom I have never met for years altogether certainly couldn’t be expected a piece of my heart’s emotion, let alone, my sympathies, time, effort, energies and concern. That’s just the way with the virtual world isn’t it?
I call it the Second Life Syndrome, if it tickles your fancy! Our online world is like the popular-until-recently simulation game Second Life, where gamers would assume a real identity and live a full life within the game. They forget that they have a worthy life just beyond their tunnel vision. A life that gets neglected, ruptured, shrunken and decapitated the more we feed into our Second Life. I don’t know if I would choose to use the word ‘balance’ here, because it’s more about priorities I think.
I honestly wouldn’t need to hang out with the social media sites if I have a full-time job, a family to come home to, kids yearning for my love and attention, a garden to tend to during the odd bits of spare time, plenty of books lining the shelves, relatives and real friends to meet during weekends and a fulfilling personal routine to keep my mind happy. It’s during the dark gaps that seize all these moments that I want to use my Second Life as a security blanket.