Confessions Of A Social Media Mind

Some taboos thrived in our home in Delhi. Meeting male friends was fine if they didn’t belong to rogue families; females could be friends only from a distance. Our precious lives mirrored pensive sadness.

As a teenager in the mid-90s, I was a victim of my previous generation’s regressive outlook, which had shown no signs of letting up. Their puerile conduct bound and confined me such that my superficial layers had remained unpeeled, pushing me to maintain the status quo of my limited social interactions.

Then came the dial up connection and world wide web, which turned me inside out.

With an email account on Yahoo in the year 2001, it was easy to sign up on Yahoo messenger. Soon I was in several group chat rooms: abusing Pakistanis and Australians because their teams beat India in cricket matches, flirting with (hopefully) women from Bulgaria and Hungary because they pinged me first, becoming a Slovakian woman myself to excite equally curious chatters. A certain resurgence kept me going and I was everywhere, mitigating melancholy too. One deterrent was the eldritch sound the dial-up made in the middle of the night, waking up my parents in the other room. But they got used to it and which prevented my rebellious bubbles from bursting.

AOL had acquired Instant Messaging Client or ICQ, a simple program that made abusing or flirting user-friendly without pop-ups. My stint with MSN Messenger was brief, using it to fight with a friend who’d only used MSN.

As time passed, I was making friends from as far as Honolulu to as near with a random chatter in Delhi; the fiery virtual world made me poised and assertive; there was nothing to lose. I was meeting my friends in the real world, too, which didn’t appear rosy enough to have the pull of permanence. What then felt permanent were anonymity and ubiquitousness. I chose to leave my aggression for the evenings, post the howl of the dial up.

A friend suggested Orkut, a social networking site that was quietly replacing the few real rendezvous we had. The best of friends were thrilled to be connecting online, sharing their recent profile pictures, which eliminated the need to see one another frequently. The polished stillness of these pictures simply belied the truth of the moment, as what was captured in a flashy edited-version moment was a poor indicator of how a person would appear when in the real world. Instagram deepened this divide.

Skype, which Microsoft acquired for $8.5 billion, brought me closer to family and friends, especially after I’d moved to the US. But Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion and made sure I was addicted to it. I was on Twitter too, but unaware of how I’d publicize my views since everyone was tweeting.  LinkedIn tempted me, but who cared about professional networking: if the quest for freedom from arrested development was the A of the alphabet, professional networking was Z — was a long psychological stretch.

Facebook changed everything, and after it bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in Feb 2014, we knew that the influence of social media was not disappearing any sooner.

I’ve been a member of a school WhatsApp group for two years. The friend who created it remained the admin for long before he – upon consensus or otherwise – democratized it by making every one of the 50+ members a group administrator. Most members are based out of India, the rest spread across the globe. Meetings among friends became rarer. Two guys (including the one who created the group) who were best friends had a financial tiff. One had allegedly owed the other close to half a million Indian rupees.

When their coffee didn’t brew in person, the lender brought up the matter of his roasted ground beans in group chat. He tried brewing it by way of naming and shaming the borrower and his family, not realizing that using profanity wouldn’t separate liquid coffee from the used grounds. The borrower – with not much as a convincing explanation in his defense to the group – was yet to roast his coffee beans.

Now since everyone was group admin, the two barista protagonists deleted each other, one after the other, and they could repeat this feat because they were being added instantly upon deletion by some friendly group members. Hurt not only by the naming and shaming but also by being deleted, the creator of the group, who’s also the alleged borrower removed everyone from the group before adding them (minus the lender) and becoming the sole group admin, like before.

Their coffee hadn’t brewed in person because the edited glory of their online presence had uncharacteristically replaced flesh and blood of their human presence. The lender’s trust of the borrower had died alongside the death of the humans’ valuing one another; the e-intimidation as opposed to a heart to heart talk became the norm. Nobody was surprised. Weren’t we waiting for this?

In contrast with how it was in the mid-90s when the hunt for freedom stocked up its shares on a single window, the year 2017 has forced open many windows without offering a wholesome view. These rusty and creaking windows are blinding us from any possibility to view, witness, and experience the real. Precious lives still mirror pensive sadness.

Waiting for the connect (Photo Challenge). The Sting of Social Media (Daily Prompt)

20 thoughts on “Confessions Of A Social Media Mind

  1. I was wondering what coffee meant in your post here – was it real coffee, or a metaphor for something else? It is amazing how far we’ve come with the internet and social media. Like you, I still remember the days of AOL, Yahoo Messenger and MSN – and I used them all on dial up back in my high school days. These days, there are so many social media platforms. To be honest, I am not a fan of social media at all. I’m rarely on Facebook and Twitter and in fact, I have gone days if not weeks without going on each of them in the last year. Probably the only exception is bloggoing. And Instagram but I usually like to keep my social media accounts private and sharing them with people whom I know in real life.

    That said, there is no saying who we can connect with through social media – and so learn a lot through these connections. Blogging has certainly brought this upon me, and for that I am very thankful for it.

    • Hey Mabel – well, it was a metaphor to suggest how unmade coffee and human relationships (seen through the prism of social media) are bitterer. You need a lot of love, some half and half, and sweetener (not for health freaks) to make bitter coffee or relationships better. Perhaps not the best of tropes but don’t fault me – I was drinking Cafe Americano with three shots of espresso when writing this post.

      How much you want to reach out is totally up to you. It’s sagacious that you’ve kept your social media interactions to a minimum. I see people who’re everywhere, have thousands of followers and subscribers, and I don’t know how much they have or want to filter the bad follower or subscriber out. It’s a tricky situation. Sometimes you need a lot of them to give your work the required traffic. But again, it’s subjective.

      Thanks 🙂

      • I thought it was a clever analogy. Very well thought out 😊 So true about half and half. Some relationships and interactions you just can’t have it all. Its give or take and compromise and understanding is needed.

        It amazes me how some have so many followers on social media. Could either be bought followers or maybe they work very hard for it. Agree, success can be subjective. It may not necessarily give us the feeling we are looking for. Take care, Mahesh 😊

  2. Well said and well done Mahesh – your analogy, as always, is on point. Personally I think the connectivity online has gotten a bit out of hand. Then I wonder what the NEXT generation will experience and where we go from here! A brave new world out there, don’t you think?!

    • Thanks a lot, Tina 🙂

      “Then I wonder what the NEXT generation will experience” – thanks for highlighting this: I too wonder what our future will be. Yes, it’s a brave new world – and we hope they’d look more inward than outward – also hope they’d live through the incredible disconnect these technologies will bring.

      I’ve already disabled push notifications for a lot of my apps 🙂 A start.

  3. I liked your reply to mabel = the coffee analogy.
    I also was right there with you as you reflected back to the emerging online trends in the 90’s – the sound of dial up – oh wow.
    had to re-read some of the whatsapp section….
    and well – very important point you make with it – the broken trust and “e-intimidation as opposed to a heart to heart talk became the norm..”
    I have to admit that I am clueless to many parts of social media and the stuff that is going on – and enjoy reading more about the layers and layers to it….

    • It’s a blessing, amigo, that you are clueless. Cluelessness is bliss in the world of social media. Thanks for quoting the e-intimidation bit. I know a couple who settle their disputes via WhatsApp; they exchange pleasantries at home. Settling disputes in person may lead to violence, they fear. Thanks for your interesting inputs 🙂

      • that is interesting that they settle stuff via the app. That has many strengths to it – like as a couple they have found a safe place with boundaries in place.
        and they are at least addressing issues – which can stir the soil – aerate – and allow for health. It is the couples that ignore – hide – or mismanage stuff that leads to dry ground that is no longer permeable – so I am sure it has many strengths for them.
        and I also see many positive sides to social media – I know there are draw backs – but it really is the modern day watering hole where some wonderful socializing happens – like I feel with some of our exchanges dear Write Might. It reminds me of TV – it gets slammed by many used to be viewed as the “boob tube” – and I even slammed it back in the day – but it is what we choose to watch and how we engage in the medium – like for example – earlier this year – watched a show about the nun study – all these nuns are donating their brains to research – yeah!
        and then we saw PBS’s Victoria – and it was so well done.
        so it seems us humans have to watch the good and bad in all….
        eh?

      • You’re spot-on – well penned. I totally agree – love the soil analogy 🙂 Yes, these exchanges are possible only through social media – the good part. The bad part may be our over-dependence, bordering on obsession and addiction.

  4. you nailed it perfectly!
    social media has widened the net, but made it shallower. As for wars and battles, yes, it does make for miscommunication more than communication. Many a groups end up bickering over minimals and then force members into warring parties.
    In our childhood we were tantalized by Invisible Man, and we wondered how much power it would give him to change the world. Now we are all invisible behind our safety net and pseudonames. Anonymity has, surprisingly, brought forth our worst traits, in the form of trolls and deceit

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