“The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is a book.” – Northrop Fyre
It was in search of my long lost school friend that I came across a social networking site called Orkut. Since then, my journey with online social networking sites have been a mixed bag.
Technology always has its share of benediction and malediction. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are no exception to this rule.
After Orkut came Facebook and people were able to connect with each other across the globe. There was an euphoria in posting pictures and counting the number of likes and comments. To a certain extent, it was like judging someone by the number of likes and comments they had received.
First, let’s see some of the pros of using a platform like Facebook. You are able to connect yourself with someone with whom you may have lost touch decades ago. You can get in touch with several noted personalities – scholars whose words can teach you life lessons. Motivational quotes posted by several people can change your life. You can get to know about things happening around the world – the latest news on technology and sports. Last, but not the least, you can also find a suitable match through Facebook.
Now, let’s check out the cons. You will see lots of smiling pictures on Facebook, and if you’re feeling low, it might feel like the entire world is happy and you are sad. This can serve a blow to your self esteem. You might become addicted to it as you will be seeking constant validation. Like I said earlier, likes and comments are like passing a judgement. There may be emotionally honest posts which might resonate with your own low moods, thereby making it worse. There may be times when you simply waste precious moments by scrolling through your Facebook page for various posts. And of course, you might get trolled by people who you don’t even know. These are some of the cons, among others.
Initially, my personal journey with Facebook, which I now call the “18th century French Salon”, was very good. With plenty of likes and comments telling me how good looking and sexy I am, I was on the top of the world. I started posting affirmative messages which, to some, may have sounded preachy. In no time, my share of friends increased from 200 to 1500.
I was appreciated for my posts and people opened up to me about their stories, and this made me happy. I also found some people who initially called me their friend and then, on hearing some rumors about me, blocked me. Following this, they again unblocked me and clarified themselves by saying, “I am your friend, I am always with you.”
It was a gesture I could never forget. So I learned how to remove such fake friends who often resorted to telling sugarcoated lies. The block feature really helped me in this. I grew tired of seeing selfies of people in washrooms and I started blocking those who constantly posted selfies too.
By this time, my patience level had gone down. I had understood that there were a lot of fake friends who spoke ill of one another behind each other’s backs. By the time I came to realise this, I had lost all interest in Facebook. Once I had been an addict but I was cautioned by a friend of mine to be careful and to maintain a low profile. My Facebook account, which I used to remain in touch with my friends, was flooded with people who tagged me in their posts only to spread gossip about me.
One day, I was busy tutoring my students, when suddenly, a man who clarified himself to be half my age pinged me on messenger. He had come across my posts which had motivational quotes, along with my pictures. He reached out to me saying he was unwell. I initially thought he really might be ill, only to realise my mistake.
He started posting videos of him masturbating on my pictures. He sent these videos to me via Facebook messenger. I generally do not check messenger chats but due to constant pings, I decided to take a look.
What I saw was a man holding his penis and masturbating. He was whispering my name and saying “I need you, please take it in you. I need your breasts, I need your milk.” There were several episodes of that man blocking me and unblocking me. Each time he unblocked me, he made sure he sent a video of him masturbating.
I checked out his profile and saw he was friends with so many noted personalities. Barring him, there were also several people who would block me, then unblock and say, “Sorry.” These people often spoke ill of me behind my back. I was trolled and stalked.
People whom I had trusted the most turned out to be the worst ones. They were the same people who had reached out to me with a friendly hand, only to later speak poorly of me. I started using the block option and then, my friend list came down from 1500 to 1000.
I remembered my friend’s words: “Keep a low profile, Facebook is a virtual world, do not get addicted or fall victim to it.” Some very famous dignitaries, beating trumpets, initially reached out to shake hands with me and then I realised all they wanted was to drag me down. So these people too I decided to block. To be honest, I did not find real help through Facebook but it did teach me about the bitter aspects of life – and that I should be careful in choosing my friends.
There was a campaign by the journalist Barkha Dutt on Twitter about menstruation. I had mentioned that I bleed each month, only to be trolled by at least 20 odd people, asking me to share pictures of my bleeding. Once again, the block feature on Twitter helped me.
I wrote an article on love jihad for Youth Ki Awaz and once again, I was trolled. I also fell victim to a site called Sarahah where anonymous persons can write to you. I received a message saying that I was an erotic masterpiece made by the almighty, and that this person would love to write poems while having sex with me. Apparently, each night, that person only thought of all the possible positions in which we could have sex.
I have mentioned several instances in which social media sites weren’t kind to me but I would also like to talk about their benefits. I came across genuine people who shared their knowledge with me. Twitter is a place where you can get news bytes, and know about what’s happening across the world.
We get to know about culture, technology, sports and a variety of things like mental health, NASA’s Mars project, the breakthrough in H3N2 vaccine and a lot more.
There were instances where I came across people from several genders who genuinely needed help. For example, there was a homosexual man who was badly beaten up. I reached out to help him and in exchange, I received words of wisdom and courage from that broken man.
I came across a 2 -year-old girl fighting stage IV colon cancer. We exchanged tweets and I found her to be much more courageous than me.
I came across a young model battling severe illness. There again, I could connect with her and in return I received her unconditional love. She said that I was a beautiful woman with a kind heart. That is the biggest gift one can receive from a stranger.
I came across another young bisexual man who was being harassed by some people. When I reached out to him, it was Christmas eve and he had been contemplating suicide.
On Facebook, a man much older than I was reached out to me after seeing some of my writings on sexual abuse. He shared his story about how he too was a victim of sexual abuse and asked me to write it down. I published his story through Café Dissensus – a magazine I was able to fetch through Twitter. So these were the occasions on which social media had been beneficial to me.
In conclusion, I would like to say that do not use social media just to post nonsense, but share knowledge. The block and report features shouldn’t have to be used at all. The founders of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Linkedin and WhatsApp created these spaces for a good cause.
So this is my request – do not misuse the beauty of such sites, use them to your advantage. Learn from the scholars, share knowledge, reach out and help people, share your stories of success and failure. One’s joy is doubled and sorrows halved when they are shared.
I used these sites to my advantage. I could reach out and help people in distress and I also got to learn from honest people. We need to unite ourselves through social media; we shouldn’t use it to spread hate. We should use social media to create an impact on the society.
One should use social media as a strategically to utilise knowledgeable content so that we can make this planet a better place to stay. Let us seek peace and speak the language of kindness and compassion on social media.