I was at my listening post at one of social networking sites a few weeks back and listened in on a conversation between two editors, a firebrand veteran and a feisty firebrand-in-the-making, bantering on how people lie on the social networking sites more than they do in real life. What had started their banter was a survey that had been published in a leading Indian newspaper the same day, saying much the same. The insights were interesting and I listened on till the conversation took its usual turn towards politics and I tuned out. But the thought still lingered on in the mind.
Somewhere I was not ready to agree that we all lie freely on the social media. Not all of us are liars here. Some of us are, perhaps. Not all of us. Oh yes, but most of us love to exaggerate. And some do take exaggeration a little too seriously and take it to an extreme. But I was sure that majority didn’t lie on Facebook or Twitter. What most of us try to do here is try and create the image of a person who we want or ever wanted to be, not who we really are. Does that amount to lying? I’m not justifying the need for exaggerating or for that matter lying here. All I am saying is that the social media gives us a second chance, to become or try to become who we want to be.
I know for a fact that I don’t want to sound like myself from seven years ago, when I was setting up home in a desert city in the Middle East. I was stuck in a house with a book case full of books (which I am now revisiting again), a state of the art cooking range where I was learning, unlearning and relearning culinary skills, a television with four ‘Arabic’ speaking channels, a DVD player but no DVDs and where I spent my leisure hours learning Arabic and baking all kinds of upside-down cakes. I know for sure that I wouldn’t want to put up pictures of mine from my salad days either, with flowing unruly tresses, not out of choice, but because I was not sure whether the woman at the neighbourhood’s ‘apology’ of a parlour could even hold a pair of scissors! Anyway, since this post is not about my days in the desert city, I promise to share more in another post, now on to the social media.
Once the social media reached out to me with open arms, albeit a few years later and I started to take baby steps, balance in my life was restored. I do have a few Facebook albums chronicling the ‘good times’ we have had there, but I’m sure that is not the ‘complete’ picture of my life in reality. I have chosen 30 odd pictures from among 300 pictures, those that look perfect, those that have the best profiles of me in beautiful locales and of course those that tell the world how ‘happy’ I am. But that is not the complete picture in real life. Why? Because my life is much more than those picture perfect albums. Because I do not carry all the ‘Me’s with me into my social networking sites I frequent. I leave them hanging around by my table, by the book case, with my paint brushes, planning home work for my daughter while I tweet, update my status, post smart looking comments, put up picture perfect Facebook albums to the envy of others.
I am sure I wouldn’t want to open up the ‘not-so-picture-perfect’ past of mine as an open book on Facebook. Neither would I like to upload pictures of my bored or tired self for others to needlessly scrutinize and comment on. I am quite certain that had I gotten on to Facebook at such a point in time in the past, probably I would have hidden my face behind a mask, too … a profile picture which is not mine. Instead of my face you would have found an apple, a post-it, a painting, a door frame, a cartoon character, super hero, a popular superstar or even a rocker (oh yes, people do get creative when it comes to choosing the right mask). Many people do that, trust me and I am sure that each one of them would have a perfectly viable reason in their minds for this kind of behaviour, best known only to them. Hiding their real face from the world so that they can carry on tweeting, updating or whatever else they do, they do boldly – one step removed from the public eye. (Here I’ll let myself presume more than I usually do). Some, I suppose, hide their faces behind masks on the social media because in real life they are wonderfully ordinary people, perhaps slightly overweight, definitely beyond their first flush of youth and hell-bent on trying to add glamour and a touch of excitement to their otherwise nondescript lives. Or perhaps they need a mask to put their bold foot forward and talk in a language that scandalizes the living day lights out of others around them, which they believe buys them the everlasting acceptance of their peer group. Significant others hide their faces so that they remain conspicuous to the world or so they think. And last but not the lest category comprises of those like the Fake IPL player who keep themselves ‘famously’ conspicuous to grab eye-balls and play on the old vice called Curiosity.
Sad faces http://bit.ly/c1LkYw
I was happy in my social networks. I was ready to live happily ever after with my faulty logic. I was sure it was not such a scary place, not everybody out there had an axe to grind and most of them were not vicious people, till I met another kind. Masked ‘impersonators’ who go about shamelessly stealing and using other people’s identities in an attempt to grow their own fan following. Those who are curious can read about my encounter with a masked liar on my other blog, a first person account of what happened to me in cyberspace and what could very easily happen to you. Willy nilly, I have learnt my lesson. The only place where I can truly afford to wear my rose-tinted glasses and maintain ‘life is good’, is in person. For the rest of the social media, this ‘social animal’ has chosen to take a walk down Narcissus lane and get an account with the handle @TheRealSoma_G.