I’ve decided to leave the city. In case Chaddha ji continues with his annoying antics, that is. Because irritation levels kabhi kabhi itna badh jaate hain that I’m okay even watching re-runs of Rakhi Sawant interviews than listening to his random rants. Sample this. “War hone waali hai,” he shouted out the other day from his balcony, vigorously applying the mosquito repellent cream to the safety railing of the ‘open’ terrace.
He says doing that makes a Lakshman Rekha around the house that mosquitoes can’t cross. Anyway, “Haan, it’s a really tense situation,” I nodded and replied, secretly impressed that Chaddha ji is paying attention to current affairs. “But Kejriwal hone nahi dega,” he said. “Kejriwal? What has he done?” I asked. “Nothing,” he said, narrowing his eyes, “usko LG karne hi nahi deta kuchh.” Before I could even fathom any possible connect between this and the war prophecy, the king of irritation had vanished inside his house. Please find me an ashram in Haridwar.
Meanwhile, this week’s column was to be on something, and is going to be on something opposite. Allow me to explain. It was the birthday of the younger brother of one of my FB friends. The guy had turned 17. Amid all the usual wishes on his status, there was one that said ‘Happy Birthday, Billoo. Hamara sundar raja beta.’ It was from the birthday boy’s Bubbly chaachi, as I was told later. ‘Please write in your column about how embarrassing it was,’ his brother wrote to me. ‘Parents and elders who are now on social media try to act all cool, and sometimes don’t realise that their remarks on our walls can make us such a butt of jokes in front of our friends. We can’t even delete the comment or unfriend them as it’ll cause a lot of melodrama at home,’ he added.
So the mandate for me was to write to parents and tell them to not embarrass their grown-up, hip kids on social media by sending them friend requests, commenting on their status or posting their photos. To be a bit more newsy here, let me add that last week, an 18-year-old girl in Austria sued her parents for posting her baby photos on Facebook, that caused her ‘immense trauma’. “They knew no shame and no limit — and didn’t care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot — every stage was photographed and then made public,” the girl said in her complaint.
The brief was clear, but the more I thought about the topic, the more unjust this whole debate seemed to me, especially in the Indian context. I stand at a risk of sounding biased here, as I belong to the parents’ generation and not the teenager’s. Of course, it was more than silly on the part of the parents to have posted photos that had the potential to embarrass their child. Hell, in the day and age of cyber pedophiles, it could be downright risky too. But I’m not making a point about extreme situations here. I’m just not too sure if this could be compared with the situation of an elderly person conveying birthday wishes on FB, in the same words that they would have used, had they been in front of you. Yeah, that Billoo thing is a bit too much, considering your nephew may not want all his 2000 friends to know about his childhood nick-name. Bubbly aunty bhavnaaon mein beh gayi. But on an average, I’ve seen most elders being fairly cautious when it comes to posting on their kids’ social media profile.
Here’s something I want to say to the younger gen : Dekho yaar, when you proudly held your parents’ hands and taught them the use of computers, it obviously came with the natural consequence that they would land up on social media someday. And why not? Agreed that they should perhaps hang around in their own circles rather than invading your wall, but if they sometimes do, your friends would understand. Because it happens to them too. And if any of your friends still make fun of you because of how your parents are, you know which one to leave. Don’t you?
And now my two bits to the parents and elders : It’s fabulous that you are now as savvy on FB, Instagram and Whatsapp groups as your kid. And it’s a matter of bigger pride that unlike your child, you learned the technology without any initial exposure to it. But then do realise that the nature of these platforms is such that what you post is accessible to thousands of people, including hundreds of your kids’ friends and classmates. So it’s unfair to behave with them on social media in the manner that you would have done in your private space. Remember the time when you cringed, when your parents would turn up for the school PTM because you were not sure what they’d end up saying? That’s how your teenager feels when he/she accepts your friend request after a lot of dilemma. You’ve got to give them the comfort of privacy, and a chance to feel proud of your behaviour. I’m all for the concept of cool parents, but if it ever comes to the choice between being your child’s friend or being his parent, choose to be a parent. They already have friends.
Sonal Kalra just posted
‘Yo man! You’re so buhludddy rocking’ on her 18-year-old nephew’s FB wall. She’s one friend less now. Mail her at
email@example.com and facebook.com/sonal.kalra. Follow on Twitter@sonalkalra