I have finally become that!! A product of the social media, not just hooked to it, not just addicted to it, but actually shaped by it.
Am I exaggerating. After all compared to the millions who spend so much time on Facebook, my facebook usage is still barely an hour or two in a week. My mobile phone, which pretty much allows you only to talk or send messages, has absolutely no provisions for FB updates. I became active on FB much after it became the rage, much after even aunts and uncles of the previous generation started using it and frankly, I still dont even understand the full scope of navigation or the different apps within Facebook.
For the last six months, you could say I am active. I log in at least twice or thrice a week. And whenever I did, I came out with a sense of vague depression over something lacking in my life. People always seemed to keep sending updates about their lives, all of which seemed so exciting and interesting. They were going places, they had little kids who were growing up. My life just wasn’t so. I had a job I liked reasonably well. My husband and I had our own ways of making our weekends or evenings special, we had long drawn discussions on a variety of subjects, we downloaded and watched TV series, we played games, we cooked together. We loved eating out. But these were moments we shared, none of them ever seemed worth sharing with the world as a status update.
Getting on to Facebook and realizing the entire world had something to share somehow seemed to rob these moments of their charm and value. It was almost as if, ‘Hey, the world is doing something, which is interesting enough to share with others. You dont seem to think what you do is interesting enough to share on Facebook. Therefore, these moments dont matter and you dont have an interesting life.’ Here was this ubiquitous media robbing the special moments of life of its joy and relevance. And ironically enough, I spend most of my life beyond Facebook, living and really believing the credo that “You would not worry so much about what others think of you if only you knew how little they do.”
Ever since I moved to a new city, there has understandably been a greater range of things to do, places to explore. But now I realize all my outings are inspired by the fact that I can share it on Facebook. That before I go to the place, my imagination is not about what I am going to experience there, but how I am going to share that experience on facebook. On a recent visit, when a friend who accompanied me was taking photos of the ‘intersting exhibits’ to share on facebook, I told her to frame the exhibit with someone standing over it. Its only when one of us is there in the photo that its worth putting on facebook. Otherwise we might just be sharing a picture postcard. Why, I even went to the extent of changing my dress before I went for the visit (something I am notorious for not doing) , because I didnt want to be seen wearing the boring old suit in FB but wearing something different !!!!!!
So there it is, as I interact with the social media, thinking that I have the control over it, it has slowly and insidiously shaped my life. It is not just an aspect of life, but the lens through which much of the normal experiences in life are getting shaped and seen. This makes me extremely uneasy. I thought back on some of the highlights of the last few months. When I planned them, I thought of how they will look on Facebook. But when I look back on them, is the Facebook update, comment and likes all that remains of the experience. Do I remember the birds at NalSarovar or the joys of harvesting my own garden and cooking those vegetables, or do I remember the people who ‘liked’ it or commented on it. Mercifully, I still seem to remember the actual experience.
I can always get out of Facebook, but I like the sense of connectedness it gives. I am having conversations with a variety of people on a variety of subjects. It deepens my perspective on a variety of contemporary issues. But I don’t want my life to become a series of updates, but I dont want to judge an experience by its suitability as a FB update. Can I really avoid this. Or is this but an inevitable transition in life. Is this society thumping its finger at me saying, ‘So you thought you escaped our influence, you thought you could choose whatever you wanted to do. But we have a variety of ways through which we influence you.”