The trouble with social media

Feb 22, 2014, 07:59 IST | Rohan Joshi

Hey Facebook, WhatsApp! Congratulations... but I’m done. 

Earlier this week, social media giant (and duckface inventor) Facebook bought WhatsApp, a messaging service, for $19 billion. The $19 billion will be paid in a combination of cash, stock and the tears of Google+ users. As someone who grew up in the Indian middle class, I’m contractually obliged to pause here and ask incredulously, “19 billion dollars?! Baap ne sapne mein bhi dekhaa hai kya?”

Network issues: Every social network you add to your life complicates two key areas: decision-making and lying

Financially speaking, this acquisition is fascinating to me, because it comes at a crucial time; my column deadline day. If this deal hadn’t happened when it did, you’d be stuck reading my original bottom-of-barrel topic ‘Lok Sabha: Fact or Fiction?’ Both Facebook and WhatsApp are indispensible to me. I’d have no friends without Facebook, because how else is a person supposed to remember birthdays? WhatsApp performs the more important function of allowing ‘Group Chats’. A group chat is a messaging window into which you dump a bunch of friends, usually with the aim of making plans or passing on important information as and when needed. The problem is ‘Rajesh’s Vasectomy Party’ is done with its functional purpose in two hours, except nobody deletes it, so it stays on your phone. And it festers, turning into the world’s largest repository of SMS jokes, all of which go like this:

Husband: “Meek request”

Wife: “Horrendous putdown that wasn’t even funny in 1834 when this joke was first told, because as your wife, I am obviously a ginormous she-devil whose entire purpose is to subjugate you. LOL”

Husband: Sad emoji, happy emoji, laughing but also crying emoji, cake emoji, “When else am I going to use a Panda emoji” Panda emoji, casual misogyny emoji

That said, I think I’m done flirting with new social platforms. I’m sure Google+ is fantastic, and I’m sure somewhere in Minsk, someone once accepted a LinkedIn invite that led to a better job in Kirkuk, but I’m done. Every social network you add to your life complicates two key areas; decision-making, and lying.

In a now-forgotten time (three weeks ago), asking someone out was easy. You met somewhere, if they were masochistic enough they gave you their phone number, and if you were sadistic enough you called them, but 48 or 72 hours later, so as not to appear desperate.

Then Facebook walked into the room and kicked this fragile order in the face. Now you have to meet someone at a party, figure out who your common friends are, then make sure you get at least one photograph with both of them in it. Then wait until the common friend puts up the picture, make sure she’s tagged in it, then write a dopey comment under it (“Ojas’ alcohol-poisoning face is so funny in this photo! *YAY MORE PANDA EMOJI*”), then wait for her to comment, then wait a while so it doesn’t look like you’re stalking her, then reply to her, then go to her profile, then make sure you don’t accidenOHMYGOD MY HAND SLIPPED AND I ACCIDENTALLY HIT LIKE ON THAT PICTURE OF HER IN GOA FML NOW SHE’LL THINK I’M PERVY FML BUT I’M NOT. *right-click, Save As ‘RachnaFBpic’*

Dating’s harder in a social-media environment, but lying’s even worse. Time was, if you didn’t want to see someone, you just told them you were indisposed, and that was that. If I lie about where I am now, I have to make sure I don’t post a Facebook picture of where I am, or a tweet about something I saw. I must read all texts only in the notification centre so they don’t get marked as read. I have to also remember to not check-in on Foursquare, no matter how badly I want to be Mayor of Mini Punjab. I also mustn’t Instagram the excellent food I’m eating, and I must turn off all location services on my device (or devices, if I’ve got my iPad on me). I’m not saying lying in a social age is difficult, but if Osama bin Laden had had a little less terror camp training and a little more social media training, Seal Team Six would still be kicking doors in Abbottabad.

I wish Facebook and WhatsApp the very best for their future together. I’m sure the marriage will be a good one. I sure hope the wife won’t spend all $19 billion on one saari sale. *winky emoji, tongue out and laughing emoji, “One last hurrah for the Panda!” Panda emoji*

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo.
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