Some wise soul (a woman, if im not mistaken) put it very eloquently: “I share, therefore I am.” And I dont think anyone could have better hit the nail on its head. Clearly, we live in an era of sharing. Whether its color of your underwear, where you like it most, or where you want to holiday, or why you hate your job, there’s very little we don’t want to share. There’s no limit to how much we share. And we have so many ways to do it. The truth is, today when you really want to share something, even a 140-character limit cant stop you. Whether you tweet, update status messages or have an outburst of words on your blogs, there’s plenty of ways to share what you feel, think, want to do go be! Isnt one of the biggest reasons to be on a social networking site, to share, connect, communicate? Even if that sometimes mean telling people things they might not want to know, or putting up pictures others might not want to see? If you have to hide or think twice about what youre going to say to your “friends”, why have them there?
Recently, someone at work made an offhand comment about how someone on their facebook list is a compulsive profile picture changer. And how her status updates are unnecessarily revealing. The conversation veered into the pointlessness of fb, and how it’s making us flippant, inarticulate people and how fb is this void into which countless hours are wasted.
What I feel is this. Fb can only be what you want it to be. Right from the point at which you register, how many times you log in, to who you befriend, whose feeds you keep visible, and how active you are — its all in YOUR hands. So you cant choose to have 800+ friends, and THEN crib about how someone is busy spamming your wall with Farmville requests (Ok holy cow! MS word just automatically capitalized the F on “Farmville”. Farmville is now a real word a la MS Word?).
Thing is I’m not sure people think about why they choose to be or not be on fb. Its just become a thing to do. Without much too much consideration. After the initial excitement and a barrage of friends, I realized that often people added me just to see what was going on in my life, never really saying much to me or staying in touch. This included long lost classmates from various stages of my life. People who I probably never spoke to in real life, or vice versa. Friends of friends I might have met once, maybe twice, somehow think they know you well enough to connect. People I worked with (apparently it’s the best way to find out the inside scoop on some unsuspecting colleague) and a whole lot of randoms wanting to make frandship.
So I put an end to it. And now I decide who gets on my list. I decide how many people I want there. I decide who gets to stay, whos feeds remain visible, who I want to communicate with and why. Im on fb mostly to be in touch with my handful of friends, some relatives, some extended circles of people I wish to have contact with. We exchange pictures, music, random banter, meaningless drivel, interesting news and links, all with the same enthusiasm.
I have also had my fits and bouts of rage when news retrieved via fb or events related to fb have fucked me up. And this has, on more than one instance, made me shut down and deactivate my account. But every time, I came back. And I realized why. Its not because Im addicted. Its not because my social network keeps me going. Its because my fb account is just like my blog. Its another way to express myself. Whether its to share pictures of my latest trip, my life in Goa, or a great track I just heard, or an interesting link I found, or a recipe I plan to try – fb is a great way to reach out to an audience, most of whom will be interested in what I have to say. Fb has also brought me closer to some people. Some people I have never even met, outside of the words I read on their blogs that give them character almost like I have known them for a while. Fb has opened my eyes to a world of literature, news and writing on the internet that I wouldn’t otherwise have the patience to find myself. Fb has given me insights into peoples lives; all their rants, raves, joys, sorrows, excitement and disappointment are tiny clues into why they are the way they are. Fb has shown me pictures of places I have never been, and has made me quickly add them on to my “must-see” list in life.
So fb is really what one makes it to be. Fb has never taken over my life. The social network is virtual, and for me it will always be. I will still pick up the phone to wish those I love on their birthday. I will not end with a message on their walls. I will go the extra mile and comment on pictures taken by friends who enjoy photography and request criticism and feedback. I also go out of my way to meet with my friends, in real life, more than online. So if I don’t add someone or choose to knock someone off my list, its because Im not ready to share my world with you just yet. Once, I even called it “anti-social networking”. Im weary of who I have on my list, and I avoid putting people on just for the heck of it. Because when I say something, put up something or share information, I want to be able to do it without being judged. And I can only do so with people I really know.
So that’s what I want fb to be. Just another space to express myself. And it will always be just that. Nothing more.
*That said, I do believe my friend-filtration has unconsciously bugged my fb account. Friend requests that people claim they send me, never seem tor each me. It works for me, though, because the only people on my list are people I choose to add :)