Gunjan Arora, a Delhi-based primary school teacher, is surrounded by close friends with grave looks on their faces. She looks uneasy and defensive. It looks like an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting, but is actually an intervention popularised by famous sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
Gunjan is guilty of being addicted to uploading pictures on Facebook and Picasa. The situation is so grave that she wakes up in the middle of the night to upload new pictures and check comments on her older ones. Every new dress, dinner, or even a visit to a doctor, is documented on her Facebook page in pictures. After updating her status, she pings her friends to like it. Each picture, colour corrected and photoshopped, needs at least five comments for her to feel content or she feels restless. How did things get so bad? She doesn’t know. Her friends have decided to intervene and make her realise that she is basing her self-worth on the comments and likes of her friends, and in that process compromising on her self-esteem. Sadly, Gunjan uploaded pictures of the intervention too!
Stuck in the middle
This problem is not limited to Gunjan alone. There are many youngsters out there battling with ‘Facebook validation syndrome.’ They spend a large portion of their day uploading pictures on various sites and regularly updating their status messages. The fact that they compare their lives with that of others based on who went out partying more and the number of new friends others have, make it obvious that the need for validation is constant. Lack of real friends and conversations induces a sense of alienation and more and more people are falling prey to this problem. Interestingly, you are considered ‘cool’ and your life ‘happening’ if you upload more pictures and if your life looks like it’s going places virtually.
"I feel that since most youngsters are living in virtual reality, they don’t have too many friends in real life. Obviously they feel a vacuum inside and base their lives on the acceptance of their virtual friends. You always want to be a part of a group; you want to belong somewhere and therefore you wear a mask online to look and sound like your peers so that they accept you," says U Vindhya, professor, psychology department, TISS, Mumbai.
In fact, if you Google ‘Why people post pictures on Facebook’, you get 1,010,000,000 results. So, we’re not the only ones thinking about this, are we!
Earlier, a dinner with friends or a movie with a loved one was all about spending quality time with each other. People chatted about their lives and of course pictures were taken for memories, but today the situation is almost bizarre. Even when one is out with a loved one having a cozy dinner, one is always wondering whether they should tweet a pictures of that perfect lobster or BBM friends about the party tomorrow.
"Once a friend of mine tweeted about his plans of proposing to his girlfriend at dinner that night and completely forgot that she was following him. Obviously she got to know and was really angry with him for publicising their private moment but we couldn’t stop laughing about it. Show off!" says Shaleen Singh, a BPO employee.
People tinker away on their cellphones either uploading pictures on Facebook, commenting or waiting restlessly for comments. It is easy to spot the restless eye constantly looking at the cellphone to see if people have responded to his ‘awesome’ twitpic. "It is very disturbing to see people like that. The constant need for approval and validation from friends and peers is alarming. I see so many girls and boys with a cellphone in their hands, glancing repeatedly at it," adds U Vindhya.
Getting a response may be quite high on their agenda but what happens if the response if negative? It is almost catastrophic. "We were out for dinner when a friend of mine realised that some of her friends had written nasty things about her new display picture. Not only did she refuse to eat anything, she picked a fight with them online and ruined dinner for all of us," says Robin Raju, a Mumbai-based PR professional.
It’s not just a woman thing
A recent study from the University of Buffalo in the US stated that women who post a lot of pictures on Facebook base their self-worth on appearance and crave approval. It went on to receive a lot of flak for being insensitive towards women, but one couldn’t help but accept that most social activity on the Net does have a lot to do with self-worth. Adding to this study, many psychologists feel that it is definitely not just a woman thing. Men are equally active and concerned about how they come across on the Internet.
"It is utter rubbish to assume that only women are concerned about their social identity on the Internet.
I feel men are equally concerned about it. It is preposterous to assume that women are vain and men are not. Whether it is about self-worth or not, that is debatable, but men and women are equally active on social networking sites and love to change their profile pictures to look better in the eyes of the others," says Farzana, a Mumbai-based psychologist.
The way out
Psychologists feel that people need to start living their lives outside the "realms of social networking." No one’s asking you to stop posting pictures or relinquishing your online identity, but one needs to draw a line somewhere. Twitter on they say but don’t let the bird dictate terms to you. Don’t lose your identity in the ping-post, update-upload shenanigans of social networking sites. They do it too!
Recently, Demi Moore posted her nude picture on Twitter. Are we supposed to love your new skinny frame Ms Moore?
Lenny Kravitz tweeted a picture of his nude rear. Salvaging his career, maybe!
Courtney Love is quite infamous for posting scandalous pictures on Twitter and seeking comments from her followers.
How can we forget Lindsay Lohan’s numerous nude attempts to grab attention on social networking sites. Desperation, we say!
From HT Brunch, November 13
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