Facebook faux pas

June 25th, 2010

“I left Facebook because I want to be taken seriously,” said a woman to New York Times. This must be the closest digital equivalent to “throwing the baby along with the bathwater”. Here’s why. While there is a lot of pap floating around, Facebook also allowed me to know people with whom I share similar interests.
Now, this woman, who has an account since her college days, suddenly had the epiphany after joining a job that her ‘embarrassing’ pictures taken at college parties might send out wrong signals to her bosses. Here are a few thumb rules where you can have your Facebook cake and eat it too.

* First things first, stop those stupid status updates like “my kitten just purred” or “I am applying red nail polish” followed by at least seven exclamation marks. You are not Paris Hilton, live with that.

* I know it’s tough but stop playing FarmVille, Mafia Wars and their various clones. These games are like junk food but your brain is so conditioned to them that you can’t wait to milk those jersey cows. However, I would implore you to refrain from playing these games for a more important reason. Understand that your Facebook account is an extension of your CV. No company, unless it’s Zynga, will appreciate an employee with the highest Mafia Wars score. Here are a few numbers:  one per cent of the population of the world is an active FarmVille user, eight per cent of white-collar workers are playing FarmVille, it has more users than Twitt-ah. Got the drift?

* Don’t try to be overtly funny. The ironical relationship that you are in with a friend (of usually same sex) might not go well with your prospective boss. For laughs, imagine this: An aunt who joins Facebook, looks up her nephew and, even without sending a formal “friend request” discovers, that little Rahul was listed as ‘married’ to someone of the same sex. And his mother hadn’t even told her he was gay— let alone invite her to the wedding!

* Facebook group is the best thing that happened to me in the recent past. It’s an amazing lift to know that there are people in the world, who read this arty gay magazine called Butt. However, it’s the existence of groups like “Thank you Pakistan for taking Sania Mirza, now take Rakhi Sawant also” or “Orkut murdered Facebook” that vitiates the social networking atmosphere. If you think that joining these groups makes you funny, I am the tooth fairy.

* Like the New York Times source, you too might have uploaded pictures of yours taken in the spur of the moment. You can’t expect Lamebook.com to point it out. There are many things that one might comfortably pin over a desk or hang on a wall, but that would best not be made visible to just anyone online. And please, job or no job, delete your display picture that impersonates Andy Warhol’s over-rated painting of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol doesn’t deserve this kind of adulation, his patronistation of Velvet underground notwithstanding.

* Stop accumulating those ‘friends’. A survey says that you can at most have 150 friends in a lifetime. I see teenagers totally at home with at least 800+ friends. As William Deresiewicz, recently argued in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“We have turned [our friends] into an indiscriminate mass, a kind of audience or faceless public. We address ourselves not to a circle, but to a cloud…. Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling.”
Hope this detox helps you to lead a healthy social networking life. 

PS: How could anyone’s parents be their ‘friends’ on Facebook? It’s like being chaperoned by your dad to the disco.

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Foot(ball) in the mouth

June 3rd, 2010

It was one of those dates that wasn’t going anywhere. After all, she never went beyond Paulo Coelho drivel and I talking about Italo Calvino on that occasion would have been as unappetising as a beefless burger. With a feigned interest I asked her if she watches football and her eyes light up to say ‘yeahhhh’. “Okay, this might not be a date that Lou Reed talks about in ‘Perfect Day’ but at least it’s not an unmitigated disaster,” I was telling myself. Who’s your favourite player I asked with a renewed vigor and pat came her reply “Zidane”. “Zidane who”. “Zinedine Zidane”. I guess the constipated look on my face was a give-away to her that I am not impressed at her reply.

I perfectly understand if someone has no interest in football. I’ve never listened to Justin Bieber or touched Twilight series with a bargepole either. However, my problem is much more existential. It makes me wonder why in India football is viewed through that narrow prism called “FIFA World Cup”. Case in point is this woman, who last saw a football game when Zidane headbutted Materazzi in 2006. In a week’s time, another World Cup is set to begin and my childhood friend, who cannot name a single Brazilian player apart from Ronaldo, not the Cristiano one, is betting his money on Brazil. Lula Silva might be overwhelmed looking at the kind of support his country’s team is getting in India considering the fact that a Brazil victory would be the football equivalent of “out of the blue”.

Words like EPL, UEFA Champions League, La Liga might sound gibberish to people but the same people would easily hack their right arm to be in South Africa to watch a game between Greece and Nigeria. Football is no Olympics that is essential watch in every four years. Every year, Manchester United and Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona, Inter Milan and AC Milan slug it out to justify the ridiculous amount of money spent on them. But we are not bothered with that.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am in no way belittling the World Cup. I am rooting for Spain and can’t see myself getting out of a slough of despond if anyone else wins it. However, my devotion to Spain has logic to it. Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Carlos Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso are the names I follow on the club circuit the way these days kids follow Lady Gaga. It’s sad that Lionel Messi will be known in this part of the world only after showcasing his exploits donning Argentina colours.

If you are stinking rich enough to go to South Africa but cannot tell who Jose Mourinho is, remember that to avoid any more embarrassment, always say “football game”, not “football match”. See you around in… 2014.

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