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Nothing beats real life

Just the other day, a person approached me in a bar, arm outstretched. “Satbir? Hi, we’re Facebook friends.” I had to believe him.

sex and relationships Updated: Sep 17, 2011 23:39 IST
Satbir Singh
Satbir Singh
Hindustan Times

Just the other day, a person approached me in a bar, arm outstretched. “Satbir? Hi, we’re Facebook friends.” I had to believe him. I have 1,200, you see. And, another 1,925 on Twitter who follow me, apart from the 800 that I do. I’m also LinkedIn with a few hundred professionals. Fortunately, I lost my Orkut password before I could get active. Honest. So, when you compare these 5,000 ladies and gents to the five I regularly meet, serious questions arise: am I a loner staring into Apple screens of varying sizes? Don’t flesh and blood people like me? What, most importantly, is my average internet bill?

Online relationships (I prefer Twitter’s ‘follower’ to FB’s ‘friend’), do imitate some real life characteristics. To be fair, quite a few are, well, fair. You’ll know we lost a late night match immediately before the papers tell you the day after after. If someone needs blood, it’ll reach a million within minutes. I once tried raising money for a couple of drinks. Within a half hour, about Rs 47 were pledged. However, mostly, these seem to be degenerating into free media for venting. Everyone’s angry about something: the politics, traffic, powercuts, cricket, cricket lovers, the crow that wakes you up at 5. Someone was angry about babies in public places (I’m guessing she was born an adult). The other everyone’s ready with wisdom: for the PM, the opposition, Dhoni, CBI, RBI, Obama. That leaves everyone. They’re currently making fun of authors, celebs, cricketers, newscasters. Poonam Pandey (she needs encouragement though).Where is the friendship bit? Where is the networking part? And why is it becoming more anti-social than social?

A friend had an interesting point to make. Most online friends he met personally post some pretty engaging conversations turned out be, umm, not really that engaging. I’d say that’s probably because you end up constructing exaggerated images that have no hope in hell of coming true. Unlike in real life where you judge your friends less harshly. There’s something about being in a car alone, with the windows up and music blaring, that gets perfectly polite people to dig their noses like early prospectors. In full public view. That’s quite what the anonymity of your keyboard does to even the most reserved person. We’ve turned into exhibitionists, posturers, megalomaniacs out to grab our few seconds of approval.

Used to be a time when you lost sleep when you were in love (before ill-prepared exams too, but that’s another story). Now your sleeping hours are sacrificed for checking how many people, most of whom you’ve never met and probably never will, have liked your status and retweeted your tweets. You are more likely to comment, when in a meeting, on someone’s status update than respond to a text from home (but I was in a meeting, honey). One-on-one conversation is increasingly taking the backseat if you have an option of a one-on-everyone. Chances are, you’ll broadcast your promotion to the world before you call your mom.

Public, impersonal relationships score higher on grandstanding. 53 likes are replacing dad’s “well-done, son.” Speaking of which, tear-jerking odes to a mother on her day are no longer heard in a phonecall to her. They’re plastered on FB updates. It is no longer impolite to butt into someone’s conversation. It is not uncommon to see friends pissing over each other on their walls either. The anxieties and envy online mimic those of the physical world.

Virtual friendlists mein har koi friend nahin hota. Aur har koi zaroori bhi nahin hota. The world is now a massively-connected online kitty party. And you’re invited to gossip, bitch, show off your new acquisitions. Having said that, one cannot argue the fact that my bio ascribes over 22,000 tweets to me. That’s the point. Having typed over three million characters on Twitter alone, one has learnt that :) cannot replace a smile on the other side of a coffee mug. And that ({}) is best experienced in person with loud thumps on the back.

First Published: Sep 17, 2011 23:36 IST