Saturday, January 15, 2011

The train party

A friend of mine, Nalini, once observed: “Facebook is more like going to a big party. You have these islands of conversations. You can choose when you want in. Almost everything is treated trivially including clicking and joining the most serious of movements. The best part is that you can exit without having to give the host any excuses!”

Back in 2008, I was one of the last to join this big party. And, that was only because some very persuasive friends had their way with me, what with wanting to play ‘Poke’ and ‘Superpoke’ on FB. Not surprisingly, I have not used any of those features till date.

But, even after creating a very insignificant FB profile, it took me a year further to actually get active on it. I was busy concentrating on Twitter then. Twitter was amazing; it had very interesting articles and videos. It was a window to much perspective on the hot news of the minute. Overall, Twitter offered me a platform to happily remain an observer, amassing knowledge, with no performance pressures.

I am not exactly sure when the transition happened. It must have been the winter of 2009-2010. I had just got back from a vacation and wanted to share the photos somewhere. You know how it is with these sites. You share something, then someone comments, you comment back, then you go to their profile to see what’s happening in their life and so on. I started dancing in the ‘party’ then , as Nalini would call it. I graduated from being a mere observer to an active participant, posting and sharing, liking and commenting. It would have been great if it had remained so. After all, who does not like partying once a week?

However, once I started dancing, I was not able to stop. I updated irrelevant and arbit statuses day in and day out, snooped around people’s profiles, took more pictures when I went somewhere just so I could upload them on FB. My life started revolving around FB. And, simultaneously, my Twitter activity declined alarmingly. Now, I hardly log on to Twitter anymore whereas I am forever hooked to FB.

Does this happen to everyone? Is it very difficult to concentrate on more than one social networking site at any given point of time? And, does usage of or inclination towards a particular social networking site really reflect the kind of person one is?

My constant presence on and participation in FB tells me that I am attention craving at the least and self-obsessed at the worst. I like the accolades on my smartness, intelligence, outgoing nature, fun quotient etc. I like being in the news (or, rather, being the news) all the time.

On the other hand, if someone is very active on Twitter, it might actually mean that they genuinely like following current happenings in the world. They also might like showing off their knowledge to others, but might not need external assurance on their capabilities. Just a ‘Re-tweet’ could be enough to make them happy.

I am sure there are a lot of ‘mere observers’ on FB too, and many, many people who use Twitter to share personal rants and cribs. However, it is easier to be tempted into becoming a participant on FB and much easier to be left ignored when ranting on Twitter, for there are not too many avenues to ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’ there.

If FB is a party, Twitter perhaps is like taking a train ride. You say something. If it is interesting and catches someone’s eye at that moment, it gets a reply and sometimes, even gets re-tweeted. If the bug catches on, it spreads like wild fire across the train. But, it doesn’t mean you have to stay on for it to spread. It makes friends with others and goes on. If it does not catch on, you linger on for some time, re-tweeting and replying to other observations, and then get off the train at some point of time. During days of IPL auctions and football matches, budget sessions and Nira Radia tapes, all the passengers get together for a beer and some discussion. But, mind it, nothing stays on for more than 24 hours, for train friendship cannot sustain longer than that.

I really am done with the party now. I want my train days back. I want to spend some time loitering online mindlessly, not wondering all day how I should perform online. Then again, while I was writing this post, resolving to leave the party, I logged into FB four times.

So, hail FB! With more than half a billion active users and a valuation amounting to billions, my one second, half-boiled rant read by a paltry hundred people is not going to change the popularity of the party, is it?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Appraisal time

Mom and I went for a movie last week. The movie itself was disastrous to say the least and I have no intention of giving it any footage here. However, I can blame no one but myself, the “booker”, for the seats. Perched on the very last row, we got a clear glimpse of how well movie halls are utilized by romantically inclined couples. Not the best of things to be entertained by, especially when one is with Mom; or so you would think. But, that was just a minor inconvenience compared to the downright shocking one-liner I got from Mom later on:

“Don’t tell me you are going to blog about your observations in the theater or something”.

After explaining sufficiently convincingly how very sensitive I am to the world’s privacy in general and my brand name in particular, I sat back to reflect on why she would say something like this.

And, then I decided to break the one golden rule of blogging – never blog about blogging itself.

I remember I started this blog quite aimlessly back in 2006. Just so as to check, I went back to read my first ever post. Thankfully, it has not promised to “deliver any value”. Heaving a sigh of relief, I went to my second post. It is long, unwieldy, terribly terribly boring and juvenile. It does not help to remember that I was 20 big years old when I wrote that one. I read the third and the fourth (of which am even ashamed to provide links here). They seem to have been written by a very loquacious person who loves ending sentences with three exclamation marks, like this - !!!

While I was at it, I read the rest of the stuff too, chronologically. There has been senti, poetry, bullet pointed lists. There has been a lot of cribbing, a little bit of mindless fun and some free advice too strewn along the way. There have been random observations like this and then like this.

What I have been consistent with all through this half decade is my global loquaciousness (a tautological emphasis) and absolutely disconnected titles. I am not able to control the former and have no intentions of controlling the latter. So, you can expect succinct posts with matching titles from me in my next life.

What I have failed miserably at, as evident from here, is forced humor, and has always been identified and pointed out to me by ruthlessly critical friends. I really will try hard not to write anything that I do not exactly “want” to write.

What I have been hung up with, much to the chagrin of almost everyone who reads this blog, is the Queen’s language. Sorry. Oh wait, no sorry. Words gives me a high that not even Vodka can, so, I have no plans of shelving that topic. But, Mumbai gives me a high that even words cannot. So, no plans of shelving that topic either.

About five years and nearly a 100 posts later, I realize I have no niche specialization here, no sector I can pin-point as mine. Then again, I have never wanted to commit myself to topics that would need too much use of my ‘little grey cells’.

No wonder Mom thinks, given a chance, I will write a 500-word post on the pigs of Gurgaon. Fat chance that, Mom, not on my death bed!

I did not intend writing about all this when I started this post. In fact, as is my wont, I did not intend writing anything of substance when I started this post. That is why this is not some ceremonial post in the traditional blogging parlance. It neither marks Namesake’s fifth anniversary nor is it the 100th post.

But, while I was at it, I realized that I have an infinitely large amount of time on hand this weekend – to search for and plug in all those links ;) Well, I also realized that I owe you, my readers something.

So, here it is.

Thank you guys, for putting up with this blog and providing a lot of encouragement (hope the counter on the right is not deceiving me) to keep it going thus far.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sibling-hood redefined

A few weeks back, my kid cousin listed me as ‘Sister’ on FB. I got very excited, and fondly accepted and reciprocated the gesture. Today, when I was snooping around her profile (shameless that I am), I figured out that she has listed almost 10 people as sisters and brothers.

Other than feeling a tad disappointed that I am not an exclusive ‘sister’ (Leos love exclusivity, or so someone tells me), I almost immediately got transformed back to my college days.

We were fresh out of school then, reveling in the new found freedom that only a Government college can proffer. There were no 8.30 a.m. prayer sessions, no first bell and second bell, no full day attendance. We could bunk classes, or just sit around and sleep. No one gave a friggin’ damn.

But, for many of us poor kids from girls-only schools, the freedom came with a huge price tag. And that was to live in peace and harmony with those monstrous beings called boys. At least that was how the 16-something never-been-friends-with-boys* me chose to categorize them then.

Nah! I am exaggerating. You have sure heard of that whole adrenalin pumping thingy associated with adolescence. It is not all over-rated. It actually used to happen, in fair frequencies and adequate quantities too.

It was quite a big deal to converse with a guy. There used to be a sense of accomplishment around such interactions, though paltry and restricted to answering questions bordering along the lines of “Do you have all the notes of all the Data Structure classes ever conducted in the history of this college?”

As the terms went by and the data structures graduated to algorithms and the algorithms to dynamic programming, the friendships happened too. The friendships were funny though. The minute a guy and a girl became close enough, they would term it a brother-sister relationship. Even if they did not announce it so, their associates would discuss very authoritatively on the pure ‘siblingy’ relationship evident between them.

There were girls who tied rakhis on their ‘brothers’ hands and then started going around with them. There were guys who publicly proclaimed who their ‘sisters’ were and then proposed to them. I found it hilarious then. Well, I find it amusing even now.

What kind of society produces humans who are scared to acknowledge a thing called ‘friendship’ between man and woman? What growing-up pressures force people to give a safe label to such a relationship? From where do so many of us get the idea that it might actually be wrong to get overtly friendly with a person of the opposite gender.

So what if it does not remain just friendship in some cases. To me, that sounds much healthier and more logical than having an entire world of brothers / sisters.

* I had exactly one male friend before I went to college. Weird? Blame the same-gender school :P