This article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express on October 3, 2010.
My Unfounded Fear of Activity On Facebook
I am not one to be left behind in the latest things. I have an account on facebook. Two actually (by oversight, I must admit). As things stand, I don’t know what to do with one account, and now I have two. But don’t think I am all that naive. Send me a friend request on facebook, and I will confirm it in a jiffy.
But that is about all that I do on facebook. Frankly I am too scared to do anything else. I find it a bit too intimidating. There are too many people out there doing too many things. And many more unseen eyes like mine watching all this activity. Quietly. I see friends and friends of friends pouring their hearts out, making intelligent comments, sharing highly intimate pictures, sending hearts, gifts, horoscopes, doing a bit of passionate farming as well. I don’t think I can ever do anything so private in such a public space where 114 friends of mine (on one account) and the 139 (on the other), and so many more friends of all those friends will view.
The reason for this unfounded fear of mine is Michelle Ramanathan. Just the other day I was tranquilly viewing my account when there was a message that Michelle Ramanathan was tagged in a pic with someone. I was intrigued– who is Michelle Ramanathan? I had no idea why she was advertising to me the fact that she was tagged in a photo. I sincerely hoped that it was tagged and not gagged, and as any duty bound citizen, opened the concerned link with caution. There she was, Michelle, a belle from UK or someplace farther, cavorting in some green fields. I clicked on her pic and got a good, detailed look at her. Hmmm. So this was Michelle Ramanathan. She did not look gagged certainly. That was a relief. Nice house, nice car. But how did she land up here in my facebook account which I have kept so sterile with no activity from my side? I detected the answer soon enough. She apparently is a mutual friend of my distant friend’s distant cousin. So, I deciphered, not just this distant friend’s distant cousin, but even Michelle would probably view the goings on in my life if I decided to bare my soul. (I am sure there must be a way to keep it private, but by the time I figure that out all my secrets will be known to the world.)
I checked facebook again to see if the beautiful Michelle was up to any new activities that she forgot to tag me on. Michelle was missing but I there were some messages. Friend requests from three foreign women I did not know, invitations to join groups, exhortations to sign petitions, suggestions to add unknown people as my friends (courtesy the google chaps I suspect) and one to donate a chicken coop to an aspiring farmer. I browsed gingerly, careful not to click any button, lest I send out an invitation or cause a war or a breakup. With a heavy heart I noticed that people were vacationing in Europe, Kashmir and Himalayas, dancing gaily at weddings, trekking and waxing eloquent on all topics under the sun. I signed out feeling rather dismal and left out, much like I do in a party, or in a room full of intelligent people, wanting to say something intelligent, something funny, something exciting.
Even I want to send out an invite. For a chicken coop. To Michelle. I will, I soon will. From both accounts!