A sojourn through the virtual space

Published: 10th October 2013 11:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th October 2013 11:48 AM   |  A+A-

Love it, hate it, but there’s is no getting away from the social networking sites. Brickbats are a plenty for frittering away quality time, but checking updates at least once every day has become a habit with many. But except the few who have deliberately ostracised themselves from the virtual world, the majority of people are hooked to the networks, especially Facebook. But wait, apart from tagging, bragging and all the hullabaloo, apprehensions surface when it comes to maintaining a personal rapport with FB-pals, because of the unfamiliarity quotient. But things are changing. Rummaging through the walls of a few people who make a perennial presence on Facebook with 2,000 plus friends, it is evident that cyber space plays a significant role in their lives. Interestingly, the people who met through FB hold regular meetings, plan picnics, conduct discourses and even tie the knot. For instance, take the case of Aloshi, a sunny person, who has more than 2,000- odd friends in his virtual kitty, ranging from writers to wildlife photographers to artists to homemakers to commoners. When he says, “With some of the friends whom I have met through FB, I share an unbelievable frequency, perhaps more than those whom I have gained through my everyday interaction. There is no exaggeration in it.” His wall is a testimony to the fact. Snaps posted on his wall shows his regular meetings with FB friends at various picnic spots. They sometimes even meet unexpectedly, which is of course an occasion for celebration. “This is a world of absolute fun,” gushes Aloshi who joined Facebook some years ago to track his longlost classmates. “After tracking them, I started expanding my friends list by sending requests to those whom I felt I can share a wavelength.” Now Aloshi is surrounded by an ocean of friends in the virtual world. For Abdul Kareem, an NRI, his trips back to India are also occasions to meet his FB friends. For him, the network is a serious platform to share his ideas about contemporary sociopolitical issues. Kareem, who has more than 1,300 people in his friends’ list says, “I was already active in blogs and discussion groups, participating in debates on social and political issues. When networks such as FB and Twitter emerged, it was only natural for me to join and check out the possibilities in virtual social living.” Kareem says, he found FB much more friendlier than the other networking tools that existed then. “Some such relations have grown to real relations, and be it in FB or otherwise, we do interact with each other via chat and sometimes over phone to exchange ideas about any topic we currently discuss in public. FB gives you a personal space where you can share personal, political and creative works and experiences with the public or people you care to know.” Kareem says, “Since most of my virtual friends are Indians, during vacations, or during business trips, I always make it a point to tell my friends my trip plans ahead. At least once a year I have a get-together with close friends, and their friends. Whenever I visit a place, I use the checkin option in FB to let the people of that place know that I am there, and for how long. We make an effort to contact one another and try to meet. It is a totally different experience when you meet your virtual friends for the first time in person, but there is so much familiarity and warmth as you already know them.” Sangeetha Madhavan, a lecturer, who finds FB a secular world, got to know more about her life partner through the site. Says Sangeetha, “I have an active group in FB, of like-minded people who love art and literature. When I met my future husband through a common friend, we were just friends. But through FB, we found out that we had common interests such as music, books and arts, and that we can be of great company to each other.” Sangeetha is of the opinion that the social platform is a great tool for individuals’ with a social consciousness. She says, “People have different opinion on each issue. The debates and discourses help you to expand your world.” But one must be wary of fake people in the circuit, but it is easy to trace them. She says, “When we go through the wall of a person, and read the nature of the comm e n t s , it is easy to get to know the person.” Aloshi says, for him FB is not a platform to share his ideology, and therefore he has no hassles. Kareem who says he is least concerned about how his privacy is affected due to his interaction with the public puts forth a negative aspect of the site. “FB can surely be used to express your dislike for others too. There was a time in my life, when I was targeted by a group people who were once friends in real life, to stigmatise me, due to personal issues. FB was largely used for such an attempt, as they knew the most effective way to spread hatred against a person was to contact the ‘virtual friends’ and tell them about the ‘real me’. As a result, some of my friends ‘unfriended’ me.” But Kareem says he does not see it as a disadvantage. In his case, he remained more active on FB to prove his credentials. He says, “Since unfriending is a perfect political or personal tool to tell a person that “I don’t like you”, we can use it as a tool if there arouses any discomfort.” (Some names have d o been changed)

 

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