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| June 18, 2019

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THE FACEBOOK: AFTERLIFE

THE FACEBOOK: AFTERLIFE
Mahesh Mohan

We live in a Facebook-dominated world. Brands peddle wares on it; politicians fight battles on it; businesses launch products on it. Farmville notifications spam your page; gossip mills initiated by a friend of a friend churn all day long, pulling you in to waste your time, to join 900 million other people who are sharing their status updates, pictures of their cats, and links to their favourite Metallica videos.

Whether we like it or not, Facebook has become an extension of our very selves. And like everything else in life, there are good and bad things to come out of this.

We’re better connected…Or are we?

Thanks to Facebook, we’re now friends with people with whom we had long since lost touch. I have connected with old classmates from school and university whom I wouldn’t have hoped to find even if I’d hired a detective. We’ve all made new acquaintances, mainly through common friends, interests, events, community gatherings and so on. Some become friends, others fade away.

Although we may have connected to hundreds of ‘friends’, do we pay attention to all of them? It is to be expected; the law of group dynamics dictates that over a period of time, each person finds his ‘friend-zone’. But what’s sad is that ‘friendship’ in terms of Facebook has been reduced to scribbling a few words on someone’s wall on their birthday. This annual ritual seems to validate the friendship and absolves parties of the arduous task of having to meet up in real life or have a real conversation.

The hunt for likes

Admit it.

Every time you’ve come up with a clever status message, you go back to check how many likes you’ve got. We’ve all done it. Some of us are obsessed about it. Some are addicted to the point of preferring it over sex.

At its core, Facebook is like a brilliant psychological device. It satisfies the one thing that we all crave for – approval. Be it a crying toddler, a mischievous school kid, teens and their bling, and sales executives with chemically whitened teeth, all of us crave for attention and approval.

We all want ‘Likes’. We’ll do anything for it. Better photos, smarter status updates. Some can even get desperate and almost beg for it. Facebook has empowered us with a wonderfully tangible and quantifiable medium to tell us how good our jokes are or how pretty our photos are. So don’t hold back. Keep clicking that ‘Like’ button and churn out some more happiness to the Amygdala.

Has Facebook made us stalkers?

There you are, (s)trolling around on Facebook, minding your own business, and all of a sudden a cute girl pops up out of nowhere. Hey, you’re not the type who shoves video cameras into women’s locker rooms, but now the Facebook worm has taken over. You have to click and see. And before you know it, you see a nice picture of her, you know her name, where she works, and find some common friends who could possibly arrange a chance meeting. Now you pause for a beat and you think: ‘Wasn’t this stalking?’

Well, maybe not anymore. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, famously proclaimed that the era of privacy was over. A part of his statement talks about Facebook’s business model – which sells information about you (what you like, where you stay, how old you are) to companies that ‘help keep Facebook free’.  What he was really saying, of course, is that your online footprint is not really yours.

It is up to you, though, to be aware of and to activate privacy settings. For example, you’re a part-time cartoonist and writer and would like your updates to be read by everyone. So you make that stuff public. But you can hide photos and contact details so that only your friends will be able to see them. On the other hand, if you don’t want to share any information beyond the people you know, you can choose to switch everything off.

The beauty of social media is that you control how much you want to share. But it’s important to know about the privacy options before complaining about stalkers.

Are we addicted?

Statistically, yes.

Behaviourally, not just yet.

We humans have always been addicted to something or the other. It started off with chat rooms and user groups in the nineties leading to Hi5, MySpace, Orkut, Google Wave and Facebook. If it weren’t Facebook, it would be something else. Some people prefer running through images and status updates rather than, say, play a song or watch a game of cricket. Who are we to criticize what they do with their free time?

But then at the recent Olympics, Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm said that she would’ve done a lot better had she signed out of Facebook and twitter a lot sooner than she did. Since it has been embraced by the world as a part and parcel of the life, it is up to us to manage our lives around it and it around our lives.

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