I was an early convert to social media. I joined Orkut in 2006, shortly after its inception in 2004. For uninitiated millennials, Orkut was a social networking service, a precursor to Facebook, owned by Google in later years, that went offline on September 30, 2014: it had been created to help digital native users make new friends and keep in touch with old ones.
Soon, I became obsessed with scraps — which were “notes” users would write on each other’s Orkut pages in the early days of patchy Internet service in India. It started consuming a large part of my waking hours, and took a toll on my daily work schedule.
Those days, I used to work for a 24x7 English-language TV news channel. I would often be busy frantically posting scraps between bulletins and breaking news.
I vividly recall I had missed out on an important international news break on December 30, 2006. The former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been executed, and the live feed was coming on the wires at a frenetic pace while I was furiously posting inane scraps to my New York City-based cousin. I was unaware of the goings-on in a newsroom that exuded high-octane energy, till one of my producer colleagues, and a dear friend, shook me up from my mindless chore.
It was an epiphanic moment of realisation and also a date with social media disengagement. I had to jump off the bandwagon to preserve my sanity.
I am happy to report that I have managed to keep at it. Fortunately, the ‘contrarian’ take did not have any impact on my professional career as a journalist (full disclosure: WhatsApp is good enough for that).
Initially, there were efforts by colleagues and friends to encourage me to join social media. In mid-2007, one of my colleagues had opened an account for me on Facebook, which is lying dormant to date.
Similarly, in December 2013, I debuted on Twitter, thanks to another former colleague; the handle remains inactive, while I receive periodic reminders from Twitter to log in once every six months (I have also been warned that I would be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity).
I am not on Instagram and Snapchat either, though I did dabble in WeChat — a multipurpose social media and mobile payment app — during my brief stay in Hong Kong a few years ago.
I am content that I have minimum digital footprints.
I tick the following boxes to underscore my social media aversion:
a) I don’t care for the medium because usually people indulge in banalities.
b) I don’t have time for the exercise.
c) I don’t want others to know about my personal business.
The last bit is significant and reminds me of the 2009 documentary We Live In Public, which profiled private equity investor Josh Harris and his manic obsession at the height of the dotcom bubble: the loss of privacy in the Internet age. It’s a truism that’s taking a toll on human relationships, studies show.
But despite my distaste for social media, I had voluntarily signed up on LinkedIn, a job-oriented online platform, in 2010, and at last count have 2,160 connections, even though I have not updated my profile since early 2014.
Why LinkedIn? Perhaps, this is the sanest of all social media platforms that I have been a part of because it has a professional and business-like approach.
Social media be damned, as it finds echoes in The Police’s prophetic 1983 number Every Breath You Take:
“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you...”
Was Sting referring to social media in this number years before the medium coming of age?
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