Recently I wrote a post blasting Facebook, calling it Fakebook and implying that everyone on it was just trying to win a very shallow popularity contest. I would however like to clarify that I do not believe that everything everyone does on Facebook is meant to make themselves feel better at other people’s expense. I do think a large portion of the user base does log in just for that but I think some people genuinely do not, and another significant portion does it without realizing that they are.
There are people who genuinely want to see what their friends and family is up to, see pictures and other evidence of them doing well and genuinely be happy for them. I know a few people like that and I wish I knew more of them but point is, they do exist. You just get overwhelmed by the assholes and don’t notice that they are still around, which is not very encouraging for them I guess. Apart from this altruistic crowd there is also another category of accidental assholes, to which you and I both probably belong. This group is both at the receiving and giving ends of the trauma at different points in their journey.
For convenience, lets take Mr. Pappu as an example (no, not the politician). Pappu fucked up somewhere between high school and college. Or maybe Pappu was born into circumstances that didn’t let him do as well as his peers. Maybe a bit of both. As the days go by, Pappu sees his friends surpass him in every way. That he could still live with, but everyday as he struggles with his demons or to make ends meet, he sees people he once called friends brag about their success, or talking about how traveling fulfills one’s life when Pappu cant even make bus fare. Several of his old friends post about how everyone should follow their dreams, when 1. Pappu needs to pay bills and 2. Pappu doesn’t even know what the fuck his dream is! Maybe he can have one when the nightmares stop.
One day the nightmares do end and Pappu wants to post a happy post for once. He has a couple of aunts and his mom from the altruistic category in his friends list and lets be honest, its OK if some of his old pals happen to see he’s doing alright now. So once in a while Pappu starts posting about the good dinners he went to and how cool his vacation overseas was. One day Pappu realizes that there are other people who are currently in his old situation who considers him to be one of the other lot- the ones who rub their success in their face everyday.
How does this happen? Are we all in an endless cycle of going from underdog to spoiled brat and making others go through the same? Let face it, its not Facebook. Facebook just gave us a platform to be ourselves and display that to others in real time across borders. We were doing it long before and we will do it long after. The Internet, like all technological revolutions before lets us do things at a much bigger scale and thats about it. We can scale up the best of us and the worst of us, just like the industrial revolution enabled us to produce both medication and guns on an assembly line. We now have insecurities as well as compassion and activism coming off conveyor belts. The latter is often overlooked but there is compassion and activism on these platforms too. Some of it is misguided but a lot of it isn’t. We won a policy battle for net neutrality through social media activism and there are Facebook groups where you can write a post about an abandoned old lady wandering the streets and actually find people willing to help. It’s not all doom and gloom but as always we want something to pin the blame on, lest the lens be trained on us. We want to blame a new age and new tools, instead of the same old frail beings wielding them.
In a way maybe this new paradigm is better for us. Facebook condenses the dynamics of a large majority of our social interactions and relationships into one convenient package we can analyze from the comfort of a holiday home with a whiskey in hand, like I’m doing right now.
Where do we go from here though? Is there anything constructive we can do about this, instead of just writing alternate viewpoints showcasing our love-hate relationship with society as a whole through its microcosm? I think there is and the first step is understanding that society will make people like Pappu talk about his achievements in some fashion at some point, even if he was one of the people protesting against such behavior before. Its a natural reaction to being bullied by other peoples happiness for long. The second step is deciding what you will do with this knowledge. If you’re Pappu, do what you’re doing for as long as it takes to get over all the crap you had to see and then rise above it. Start picking and choosing who you will send your vacation pictures to. If you’re not Pappu, use this knowledge to get over your judgment of him and try to give him a few genuine compliments next time he seeks validation. If he never stops asking for validation, well, unfollow him.
If you’re really getting tired of all this, start a blog, write your own thoughts and hope that someone will read them someday. But hey, don’t judge me if I post mine on Facebook at some point to get more readers.
P.S: I’m not Pappu and I can dance.