Life in a Facebook World

Five midnights back, I was awoken by an SMS from a friend that warned about the dangers of the new changes that Facebook (FB) had made to its Terms of Service (TOS). The implication was “THE WORLD IS GOING TO END”. The next day saw similar emotional outbursts on FB. This was an EMERGENCY to end all EMERGENCIES! And what was the issue? That FB would have the right to user content, even after an individual had deleted his/her profile. After this WORLDWIDE protest, which also received a first page mention in the TOI, FB recanted and went back to the old TOS two days later. All very great and power to the people, etc, but dear Gurmukh, was this worth spoiling my precious sleep?
As a community of friends, FB is the best of the lot, especially for most of us middle-aged Indian fogies who have now achieved critical mass online as well as on FB. The amazing ability that FB provides to reach out to friends became really evident two weeks ago when I posted a query on the FB Wall asking for suggestions for a new piece for this column and virtually instantaneously received responses describing a variety of topics, including one related to FB (thanks Durga).
As the cliche goes, “man is a social animal”. This is no better evident than in the various communities and groups that are popular online. Even as far back as 1994, in the dark old ages of the Internet, the India-D Listserv group connected Indians in the US, and each day saw both flame-wars and new friendships being forged. The more we are online, the more we actually want to connect with old friends and perhaps make new ones and this is FB’s USP.
Once I found that my wife had joined FB, I didn’t have a choice but to quell my innate resistance to social networking sites and I followed her into FB last month. Within two days I had found at least 30 odd people who I knew well, including a 15-year old nephew, who had no qualms letting me into his online life. I’ve also learnt since that a couple of friends have become single again, I have figured out when not to use the Wall and when to communicate privately and have also practiced and learnt the meaning of “unfriending”, which is a word that describes the act of removing someone, who you no longer want to be friends with, from your friends

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