BENGALURU: The internet is a treasure chest of information, for sure. Over the last couple of days, I have learnt about two new things that I never knew existed – Parler and Signal. People are posting thoughts on WhatsApp and Twitter about quitting WhatsApp and Twitter, but since most of us are nowhere close to being Harry and Meghan, other social media platforms are being dangled as better options. Some are wondering if life will remain the way it is, if their mobile screen does not show a green quote bubble with an old-fashioned phone embedded inside. Or if they are not trolled enough on Twitter, no, sorry, Parler.
To them, and especially to the youngsters, middle-aged netizens like me, whose first email address perhaps came suffixed with Hotmail.com, would say, ‘Chill’. There will be fun even after Snapchat and Instagram die a natural death, or get killed by competition. Like we found it, after Geocities and Santabanta.com (just checked after about 18 years, and OMG, the website is still operational!).
I love it when teenagers gape at me, wide eyes and all, when I tell them that long before Google became a verb, we typed queries on AltaVista and Northern Lights search engines, and there was something called Netscape Navigator too. And we took the help of the friendly valet on Ask Jeeves. That when my sister moved to the US, and a close friend shifted to Germany in the late 1990s, we used the email as a chatting platform, sending small sentences back and forth, thrilled to be ‘talking’ in real time, for free (thank you, office).
And took home print-outs of larger emails to show to other family members. I watch with eagerness when the mention of Orkut to Gen. Z prompts the same awe-struck look that I gave my grandfather when he first told me about the use of Morse Code in telegrams (to children reading this: No, telegram here is not the messenger app. And you cannot learn Morse Code on WhiteHat Jr).
I haven’t moved to any new platform. In fact, a friend’s coaxing made me return to an old one. I reactivated my Facebook account last month, after a break of five years. A quick scroll on the timeline showed how much older the kids of friends looked, who had left the grey hair streaks undisturbed, and who had moved to a new location. A week of scrolling later, I realised that not much else had changed. Only a few of the 500-odd ‘friends’ on my list seemed to be regular users.
Those marking their presence through pictures of their achievements in the kitchen half a decade back seem to be doing that even now. Quite like those posting images of birds in flight over a lake. Or those forwarding anti-government news clippings, or pro-government news clippings, or just clippings of their own write-ups (I may as well plead guilty now, if I too end up posting this column).
Some of the names rang a distant bell, and maybe belonged to the time when invitations were sent to friends of friends to make a more robust list. A few of us never needed Facebook to stay in touch. I am sure we won’t depend on Signal either.