Among the mundane and the glitterati, I spotted one of my favourite gracefully aging actresses and I remembered that my Facebook friend request – sent in awe of her acting – was still awaiting a response. She seemed distant, lost in the cloud of smoke she kept bellowing and her animated conversation with her companion. I could have walked up to her, but what could I have said? ‘Please accept my friend request on Facebook?’ Or ‘I used to follow you on Twitter but stopped because you rarely tweet’?
I pondered on that whole ‘to approach or not to’ dilemma for a while, gave up and turned to join the Bee and the Giggle waiting by the gate. There by the gate was yet another familiar face, walking in with his wife, perhaps. Wait, wasn’t he the writer I had recently befriended on Facebook? He removed his sun glasses and I was sure it was him. I even remembered the cover of his recently published book, not his wife, because none of his albums ever had her pictures. Did he really smile at me or was I imagining it? We had conversed on his wall a few times and had exchanged polite birthday greetings. So, was I going to walk up to him and say ‘hello’? But the earlier dilemma was still troubling me, so I walked right past him and out of the gate, half hoping that he would stop me dead in my tracks and do the needful. Alas.
My tweet, from that afternoon read, ‘Prithvi disappoints, yet again.’
Public places open up such Pandora’s boxes for me. Faces in the crowd suddenly seem familiar; it seems I know their profiles, what they do, and their points of view on matters of national importance. I even know where they vacationed and what they ‘did last summer’.
Life for the last two years has been a flurry of updates. There is this tearing need to talk to the world out there, to tell them what is on my mind and what’s happening in my life – all in 140 characters. And then comes an incessant wait, the obsessive refreshing of a page, the frequent glances at the blackberry, the craning of the ear all in the hope of seeing one red dot, one new comment, one more thread to a new conversation, hearing one new message, anything. Some sign that someone noticed my virtual existence, someone has paid attention, and someone thinks I am right. A friend, who had joined one of the social networks much later had called me a ‘social-networking diva’ – an epithet, which I am not sure, is quite a compliment anymore.
Yet, when it comes to meeting these people in person – my ‘friends’ on the ‘social network’ whose attention I crave and with whom I spend many hours in intense discussion, I shy away. Ever since I took to virtual socialising, I find myself transformed into somebody who is far more vocal and opinionated: I think the world has more cynics and critics than ordinary people; someone who judges, analyzes, weighs in behind an argument and then retreats behind an often changing profile picture. In fact, I don’t think I pay as much attention to the ‘me’ I meet every morning in the mirror anymore, as much as I pay attention to my ‘DP’.
Over time, I have come to believe that these pictures – these frozen frames in pixels – that we present to the outside world on the social media are very much a single dimension, not to be mistaken for a person’s true persona. Thus when one meets in the otherwise mundane brick-and-mortar world, the other dimensions of that person may or may not agree with the perceived image of the person in question on the net. I have only plucked up enough courage to visit a ‘tweet up’ a couple of times to realise that I am as disappointed as those who I meet in what they see in me or I in them – very different people from what they project or what they had perceived.
Are these virtual friendships really a replacement for the real life? Can they really move across dimensions without truly disappointing? Can connections on the intellectual plane with acquaintances on the net give rise to more than a momentary high? Well, ‘You’ve got mail’ does continue to be one of my most favourite movies of all time. However, the few friendships that I have been successful in taking across dimensions constitute nothing more than a rounding off error in the light of the total universe of people I apparently know on the net. But those are friendships I truly cherish; people I love to meet, to share a laugh and a cup of tea with; to spend more than a single evening with.
Late night and a cold computer screen glows brightly in the darkened room; two laptops sit opposite each other, respectively busy, on the corner table at the bustling neighbourhood café; the lonely Blackberry buzzes in the darkened, smoke-filled balcony, while a party rages inside; tired fingers tap on an iPhone on the back seat of a car as it winds through a never ending street; impatient scrolling, while waiting for the ever elusive relationship manager to arrive at the bank; the minimized browser, on the desktop, in an office cubicle; mobile screens suddenly come alive at the movie/ match during the commercial break/ interval. They are all my fellow tribesmen, all those you see around you, busy in a world which is far away from reality, from the café, from the party, from the movie – connected to each other over the Ethernet, in a somewhat real, virtual world.
Sourced from YouTube
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