It is amazing how technology can make a convert out of the most resistant cynics.
I witnessed the changover in a close friend "Buddy" who was staying with us for a while. Never one to post pics or updates, he maintained an online account with a modest friend list. However, he termed it a "social therapy" with contempt. So, when he joined the bandwagon, the story had to be told.
It all started when he went through a gruelling time at the Indian embassy. Applying for the OCI card (Overseas Citizenship of India) for his baby boy had turned into a frustrating nightmare and it took many a bump, hurdle and roadblock to see the application through.
The experience left him cold and seething about the rigamarole of the Indian bureaucracy. Looking for an outlet, he proceeded to open --not a bottle -- but his laptop and drown his sorrows in, ahem, Facebook.
After typing out a few furious lines about the frustrating experience, he decided to take a break. When he logged on a few minutes later - click click, click - his friend list had come out in hordes, hitting on many "likes" followed by accounts of similar dismal experiences. It was a gratifying moment, the hardened lines on his face eased into a smile, the trauma of his experience washed away by the torrent of shared sentiments by kindred spirits.
Buddy has now formed a solid bond with Facebook. Whether it is to talk about a lousy movie, a nail biting cricket match, the site gives him the chance to connect, be heard or just make a point.
That is what makes Facebook so popular, isn't it; this ability to alleviate loneliness without crowding your space. A community ready to offer sympathy, solace and social approval. How else would you explain a public letter of affection between spouses, a digital shot of culinary experiment turned out well, raving about a great holiday or a rant about Monday mood?
So much for critics berating that technology has impinged on social interaction; it seems to have opened more avenues than before. People are always chatting, watching, catching up through comments, updates and pics, even when engaged in an activity.
Does that mean that we are closer to our friends, now that we are better informed about their lives? Or maybe it is a time efficient way of managing relationships, devoid of awkward pauses or the strain of maintaining a real conversation?
A recently published news article on the BBC website reiterates this. Apparently, UK has lost the art of conversation where a survey suggested that most people prefer to drop in a line on social sites or text a message instead of having actual conversations over the phone. I am sure it is not true only of the UK but of any metro city where technology is deeply enmeshed in the fabric of its lifestyle.
But on the other hand, what can be a more effective way of maintaining contact when you are miles apart, in different countries, yet wish to keep in touch?
The other day our daughter first started school, a milestone moment for our tiny family. She was all dressed up and excited and I felt sorry that her grandparents, uncles and aunts were not around to see it. So, I held my phone, clicked a pic and off it went to our online group. Within minutes, they responded, saying how nice it was to see her off to school virtually at that point in time! My friends were responding with reassurances that she will be fine, while I was fighting back tears, thinking of my little baby as a big school girl.
All it took was a picture that helped me share that momentous occasion easily, across time zones! How marvellous is that?
Usually, the day would have been marked during our weekend calls back home, but thanks to social groups, it was possible to convey, communicate and share our feelings, right away.
I guess, these sites are our anchor, as we steer away from home and build lives in faraway countries. We may not spend much time talking but it surely helps us to keep in touch, sharing bits and pieces of our lives amid busy routines.
After all, it is all about staying connected, isn’t it?