Social networking: More to it than meets the eye

Social networking is not always about having a good time but about making mediocre times look great

It begins with a disapproving glance, which soon turns into a scowl. And then into a very ferocious scowl. Each time we are out by ourselves, much like the warning clip before the start of a film, my husband’s voice booms out, “Could you put away your crack-berry, please?”

I can live without food, I can even try to survive without water, but for me to part ways with my phone… even if it is only for a couple of hours, is an unthinkable idea. A phone is no longer just an instrument to answer calls and talk to people. It has now shrunk my world by keeping me connected to people all around the world, 24x7. From the moment I open my eyes to a new day, till I crash exhausted into bed, my phone is my constant companion.

I need to check it every few minutes, even if it is just to confirm that I haven’t missed the message beep. I can’t ignore the blinking red light for too long, that signals a message awaiting me. And I never know who might be calling, or which life saving message I may miss by ignoring my phone.

Speaking for myself, I love my phone, as all my friends live in there. I used to often wonder if I was the only one. But I’ve realised that is not true! Everywhere I go, I see people glued to the screens of their cell phones, oblivious to where they are or what they’re doing, or should be doing. Even students and professionals find ways and means to check their phones every few minutes, whether they are in class or in meetings. Teachers and bosses do it too, why else would they look down at their laps and smile so much. While I’m a self confessed phone-fanatic I know that it has changed the way we socialise.

Outings have individuals and groups specially posing for pictures to post on their Facebook profile. Updates are instant, and as you are having a good time, or at least pretending to do so for the pictures, you want everyone on your friend list to know. Busy servers at restaurants now have an additional task at hand, to click pictures from each phone of every guest at a table. And God forbid, if the picture isn’t right or a particular person was clicked from an unflattering angle, the entire photo-clicking exercise starts all over again. No one asks for business cards or phone numbers anymore, your Twitter handle, BB pin or being Facebook-ed is all that is now needed. If you have no idea what either means, be prepared to be stared at like you’ve just crawled out from under a rock.

Social networking sites have also unknowingly given a big boost to the economy, as no woman wants to repeat her already worn, photographed and world telecasted outfit and accessories for another photograph. So it has to be new apparel and accessories before they consent to be clicked.

Ever noticed women going to the bathroom in pairs or in a group? Wondered why? Apart from freshening up and gossiping about other women, going to the bathroom together is just another excuse to photograph each other, and then put it up as display pictures and status updates.

Not to mention, a relationship is no longer officially official unless it is publicly declared as, ‘in a relationship with’, ‘engaged to’, ‘married to’. And when good times turn into rocky times the entire friend list knows ‘it’s complicated’, status even before the partner in question can find out. As what is life without a minute-by-minute update to the world, about how you are, where you are, what you are doing, what you are feeling, what you are wearing, what you are eating and whose company you’re sharing it with!

Recently a signboard outside a church read as, “No, I’m not talking about Twitter, I literally want you to follow me”—Jesus. Sigh! Even God needs to compete with social networking to attract your attention.

Then again, if you thought that broadcasting about your own life was the only purpose of social networking, you couldn’t be more wrong. Social networking is also another way to keep a tab on people you don’t wish to associate with on a day-to-day basis or those with whom you wish to come across as extremely disinterested. For instance, to spy on that ex, who didn’t know what s/he lost when they lost you. Punch the air with glee when you see the weight they’ve put on or the hair they’ve lost. Or sigh with envy at their perfect family holiday pictures even as you sit alone in front of your computer screen working your way through a tub of ice-cream.

Haughty mother-in-laws who behave like they couldn’t care less, spy on the lives of their daughter-in-laws through their social network pages. Underhanded daughter–in-laws, well aware of their astute mother-in–law’s send out subtly pointed messages to them through their status updates. Techno challenged parents reluctantly join networking sites to keep an eye on their children’s lives while mortified and tech-savvy children find ways and means to block parents out of their pages.

Taking a moment away from updating people about our lives how many of us realise that we are looking at each other through pictures, gauging and sharing feelings through status updates and tweeting about our current thoughts. Relationships and friendships are now formed and nurtured online, with little time to meet personally. A silly doggerel that keeps running through my mind that fits this trend:

Let’s pretend to be friends and talk about things we hear and see.

Discussing the weather, the world, the news,

Everything, except you and me

Let’s pretend to be friends as we carve time from hectic schedules, To meet once in a few months… a few weeks and talk about our busy lives.

Let’s pretend to be friends meeting for coffee

And smile delightedly for pictures we’ll put up for friends on our list to see.

This was first published in the February 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo may be? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!