Every time Ruchi Ahuja’s mood changes, her friends and acquaintances across the world get to know of it. Sometimes, they get a minute-by-minute account of how her day is going. Sitting thousands of miles away, they can also tell whether she’s wearing white sandals or blue, or what song’s playing on her iTunes right then. GTalk’s customised status messages have made Ahuja’s life an open book.
The facility has also divided GTalk users into categories of super-cool, cool, boring or plain uninterested — depending on what their message says or doesn’t say. “Like, this super-cool friend of mine has everybody going ‘duh’ with her status message that reads, ‘Anybody has a GSOH?’,” says Niharika Sood, a Delhi-based amateur photographer. GSOH? “Exactly! GSOH, she tells us, stands for ‘good sense of humour’,” laughs Sood.
But not all are as quirky. “For example, a not-so-cool friend has a thaka hua ‘good morning’ as her status message and another one has been saying ‘hello’ for the last one week,” says Sood rolling up her eyes.
For those hooked on customising messages, change is inevitable. In the present context, this means the message must change as frequently as possible. “I change my message often — from thrice a day to every three minutes,” says Ahuja. She looks upon it as a way of staying connected. “Everything is virtual today. This way people at least get to know what’s going on in each other’s life even if they don’t meet for years,” she says.
Malini Chaudhury, 28, thinks of it as a blog. “Only, here there’s a word limit, so I have to be concise and not digress as one tends to do on blogs,” says the Mumbai-based copywriter with Lowe whose latest status message is, “Some days are tailor-made for white chappals.” Given that she changes her message at least 4-5 times a day, this one won’t be here for long. “My status messages are my own. And therefore, copyrighted,” says the newly-wed who had this one yesterday, “The mehendi wouldn’t go, but the fun already has.” At times, Chaudhury’s friends seek her permission to borrow her messages for a day or two. Others, who have gmail as their secondary account, log in daily just to see what her message for the day is.
For PR consultant Parul Suri, 26, status messages are an outlet — a channel to express her emotions or vent out her frustrations. Rubbed the wrong way by some colleagues recently, she wrote, “Why do people take UNDUE advantage if you are NICE?” Not only did the message have well-wishers writing in to ask if all was well, it also had the ‘people’ in question clearing the air, online. “Sometimes, it’s easier to resolve a misunderstanding online than face-to-face,” says Suri whose message had by evening changed to “I will still be NICE.”
Asked if it bothers her that everybody on GTalk can see her status message, she says, “No, because I am allowing that access to them. If it were too personal, I wouldn’t put it there,” says Suri.
The creative expression is not happening in the form of messages alone. Some innovative youngsters have given a creative twist to the medium itself — by using status messages to chat. “Once I had an e-conversation with two friends — one’s in Chennai and the other’s in Mumbai — simply by changing the status messages. We did this for half an hour,” says Delhi-based engineer Akshay Gulati, 27.
Raising a toast to status messages, Sood says, “It’s all about freedom of expression.”