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I was browsing the web recently when I realized that someone whose posts I used to see regularly had been flying under the radar lately. Curious, I checked my profile and discovered that indeed, the person was no longer listed as my “friend.”
My heart missed a beat. I hadn’t actually paid a lot of attention to the woman’s posts, still the idea of being “unfriended” rankled. What crime had I committed to deserve such a snub? Was I no longer hip? Was I too old? Had I offended the person in some way?
Or heaven forbid, had I unwittingly clicked the wrong icon and “unfriended” her?
And what was I to do now? Was I to go back and beg to be let back into the fold?
Was I to ignore her, not only on social media but elsewhere too?
I considered closing my account and opening a new one.
I pondered how much I resented the social media.
Shall I count the ways?
One. Social media encourages us all to become Mrs. Bucket—pronounced Bouquet—the main character in the PBS comedy Keeping up Appearances. We are all forced to display our best china and post pictures of candlelit suppers with the upper crust. The pressure to keep up with the Joneses—or rather the Buckets—is so intense that we no longer know who we are and what is important to us.
Two. Our “friends” on social media aren’t actually our “friends,” but rather a collection of people who a web algorithm told us we might know and who we “friended” simply because we were too afraid to offend them by declining their invitations. As opposed to our actual friends who we might sometimes see in real life and have some kind of a relationship with.
Three. On social media, people no longer talk to one another, they simply swap jokes. Where people find these gems, I have no idea. There must be a deep, deep mine somewhere on the hidden Internet, I imagine, where poor jokes are hidden. Here is a typical posting on WhatsApp, a site Indians are crazy about.
Dear Ladies: There are two types of husbands ….
First: Calm, handsome, responsible, understanding, caring, loving, and one who listens to his wife
Second Type: Your own husband.
Huh? Are we scraping the bottom of the humor barrel now?
Four. Social media makes no distinction between close friends who might know our intimate secrets and people who we have never even met. In real life, we might moderate our behavior based on whom we are talking to. In social media, our life is an open book anyone can read.
Five. Social media forces you to peek into other people’s bedrooms regardless of whether you want to or not. Take the example of an acquaintance who has been posting the progress of her medical treatments. TMI, I want to scream at her. Too much information! Please! Don’t tell me so much! I don’t want to become a peeping tom, a voyeur, a fly on your wall.
Six. Most of us who have any qualms about privacy can’t share honestly on Facebook so we are reduced to sharing only the good times. The result is that we have all become a brand name, an advertising slogan, a commercial. If Don Draper were to rise from his grave, he would cringe at the evolution of his industry.
Seven. Social media requires us to no longer have any original thought. What with the sharing of news clips, jokes, political propaganda, music, videos of cats, dogs, and little children, not to mention old photographs of our parents and grandparents, there is no space left in which to share our actual lives or feelings or thoughts. The masthead at the top of these social media sites might well announce, “No thinking required.”
Eight. Social media gives us the illusion of connection without any real camaraderie. We see pictures of mouth-watering foods, gorgeous children, men and women in love. And we crave for more. But we can’t eat them or touch them or embrace them. All we can do is salivate.
Nine. Social media has made us all stars of our own TV shows. When Andy Warhol coined the phrase fifteen minutes of fame, he had not imagined the existence of social media. Today, we have attained, not only fifteen minutes, but fame twenty-four-seven. We have become Truman, the poignant character in the Jim Carey movie the Truman Show, who does not know that his life is a TV drama in which everyone is an actor.
Ten. In what world is one able to get away with “unfriending” someone in such a blasé fashion? And what does that say about the “friendship” that existed before such an act of cruelty? In the town I grew up, you couldn’t look your neighbor in the eye and “unfriend” him or her. It was just not done. And with good reason too.
Eleven. If I don’t post, do I exist? This last one frankly frightens me. So I go through the motions. I am afraid to go off the grid, to sign off, to be vanquished.
Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.