Love in the time of Facebook

Malini Murmu, a first-year student at IIM, Bangalore and a native of Jamshedpur, Jharkhand committed suicide by hanging herself in her room after she found that her boyfriend had posted a Status message announcing his happiness at the end of their relationship.

Of course the boy is a class A Jerk and the girl, may she R.I.P, was an emotional fool. Tell me with a hand on your hearts, have we not all been emotional fools at some point of time? All of us go through a stage in growing up when someone (usually a very unworthy someone) means everything to us. Pining, swooning, getting swept off and losing oneself seem to be grand and incredibly romantic acts of passion.

Have we not all grown up reading Romeo and Juliet?

My concern is: What the mode of expression (fb) in this case has to do with the sad course of events. I often feel that fb is a big carousel cart of so called “friends”. Their lives as showcased by them unroll before us each day and we are free to pick up conversations or like them as we deem. We can be wise, witty and wonderful in our pajamas and uncombed hair and feel gratified by the responses we get. It is socializing with minimal effort and minimal risk. That is its charm as well as danger.

The problem with the convenient joys of fb is that it is a voyeuristic medium. We are broadcasting live. Advertising our joys, sorrows, debacles and it seems even breakups – often in the heat of the moment. We are being judged and we are pandering to our audience.

I too have had a love affair .Not on, but with fb. I was on it 24*7.Chatty, personable, gregarious. The only glitch was that in real life, I am a somewhat neurotic, terribly shy, and an introvert who would think ten times before butting in any conversation. Or even saying hello to someone I did not know. Most of the time I am perfectly happy not talking to anyone. So, who was this creature – my alter ego who populated fb?
Being over forty, having the benefit of real life close relationships, and having lived largely in a pre-digital world, gave me perspective as well as the ability to discern that fb was bringing out stuff in me –all of which might not reflect my true self. I deactivated with some pangs but found more focus and less fragmentation in my life post fb.

Living in a simulated fishbowl and showcasing our shopworthy selves is a tiresome thing beyond a point. How much worse it is to face ridicule and humiliation in front of all of ones 527 mutual friends? Especially if fb is a part of your tumultuous growing up years? The primary way in which you interact?

The fellow who thought it was cool to announce dumping on fb and the girl who committed suicide are both a part of digital generation. For them fb is like the town square where they announce their ‘Independence’ and boast of their conquests. The ability to look someone in the eye, to hold their gaze and convey empathy or love probably is not developed to that extent. Because that is not so easy to fake or break via a status message. Jerks always exist. But E-hugs, likes and pokes breed a spurious sense of closeness without any real life situations having firmed them. Relationships or should we call them E-lationships can be formed and ended via status messages.

The tragedy with the arena of fb is that you think you are choosing what to say, when; but you can never see what is going to get thrown at you and when. It is the ultimate Town Square, where everyone wants to have a good laugh and the joke can be on anyone of us.

Varsha Tiwary

Full time bureaucrat and mother of two,part-time dabbler in rhymes and preacher of health and fitness as a way of life.