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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Friends for life, oops... like

Col Avnish Sharma (retd), Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, August 02, 2014
First Published: 09:51 IST(2/8/2014) | Last Updated: 09:55 IST(2/8/2014)

“Papa, how long is your friend list?” Mohini, my daughter, asked surprising me since she knew I have all but four confirmed friends and the fifth one remains a maverick. “You know it sweetheart,” I replied, waiting for the next probe on the obvious. The girl was actually referring to the latest rage, the social networking site called Facebook (FB). This was some years back.

Having witnessed good old Orkut and Hi5 getting popular among youngsters, FB too came across as a site to connect girls and boys as also to forge new friendships among the extrovert and an opportunity to transgress by the introvert. It wasn’t long before I was given a shut-up call on restrictive mindset by my tech-savvy better half. Lo and behold, I opened an FB account only to find that I was among thousands of middle-aged subscribers to this wonderful social networking across the world.

A psychologist friend of ours narrated an interesting case. A patient was diagnosed with selective depression syndrome. Any post of hers not receiving adequate likes would sink her in this condition. She would incessantly access her account to gauge the progress on likes to brighten her mood or brood. The psychologist, a thorough professional wanting to get to the root of the problem, enrolled herself on FB to gain a hands-on feel and the result was a similar depression syndrome as experienced by her patient.

During the first week after opening my account, my friend list was in single digits. The reason, I realised was my selective analysis on accepting friend requests. How could I accept new friends, some childhood foes, other avoidable acquaintances, a varied list of unknown humans, and above all people I would not dream even as enemies! I was advised restraint and to exercise largesse in accepting requests.

“A known devil is better than an unknown angel,” was what my son remarked.

“At 50, how can I make new friends,” I asked and he said, “These are FB friends!” “OK,” I shrugged and in one of my lighter moods clicked acceptance en masse. My account suddenly came abuzz with a variety of photos, sermons, videos and forwarded news. In my exuberance to gain wide social acceptability, I posted my most acclaimed article on the site. A week and I could get just three likes, all of immediate family.

Before I could approach my psychologist friend for counselling, Mohini intervened. “Papa, to get likes, you need to like others’ posts too.” This is an advice I now follow religiously. I like anything and everything without second thoughts and wow, even my vague photos, writings and quotes get numerous likes. A reciprocal friendship spirit called give and take!

An old friend posted, “My darling child badly hurt. Hope he gets well soon.” There were some likes but no comments, before I wrote, “Ritu what happened to Rahil (her son)?” In no time, there were a string of comments asking Ritu as to what happened. It, however, turned out to be a bruise to the youngster while playing gully cricket. The infectious string of queries after cosmetic get-well messages were heartwarming indeed, however trivial or routine they may have sounded.

Such are the new-age friend catch-ups. I have more than ten dozen friends on my list and yearn for more.

Thanks to FB, the world is turning into a friendly planet. Here’s wishing all my FB friends a Happy Friendship Day for this Sunday.

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