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A Perversely Compelling Love Affair

15/12/2015 8:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Our break-up dates back to some time ago: of the precise day, I'm not sure. I save the calendar for happier anniversaries. An amicable parting, no foaming at the mouth or multi-lingual abuses hurled, so we remain civil even today and I will post this on my wall! A "let's remain friends" farewell, not a "you'll be hearing from my lawyer" spectacle.

First, it was out of the fairy tales, just like it's meant to be. After all, if Facebook were a country, I would be courting one that rivals the most populous nation in the world.

Raking photos under the knife, sculpting the sights, inventing creative captions so everyone could partake in Europe's breathtaking countryside and vicariously relive our uniquely privileged life. Staying up to post them at the mercy of Karachi's internet. Not even 3G then.

Facebook was becoming prosaic, wearisome, over-revealing. Borderline repellent. The boyfriend I had chosen at 19 was no longer the husband I desired at 25.

Then we really got into the swing of things and the fun began. Loading, reloading; first thing out of bed, final ritual before sleeping. Waiting -- hanging on -- more waiting.

But as the honeymoon waned and the post-interval anticlimax set in, the novelty of its interface and cutting-edge charm of its infinite permutations began fading. Facebook was becoming prosaic, wearisome, over-revealing. Borderline repellent. The boyfriend I had chosen at 19 was no longer the husband I desired at 25. I wasn't interested in discovering humdrum, pedestrian details about more than 500 people who couldn't possibly all be my real friends. It wasn't consequential if you were off to the gym or eating gnocchi or battling sleep at 3am. Nor did I want intimate, off-putting access into people's minds and the way they think (or don't!).

We stumbled on, but the crevices in our relationship were beginning to show. I would stare at my phone screen, clench my wrist and think -- how can something be so obviously unpalatable? Before scrolling down my newsfeed, precisely 30 seconds later, because that was the magic of my relationship with Facebook -- a perversely compelling love affair.

Perhaps I could blame an over-sunny Friday afternoon. "Quite a status symbol -- to not be on Facebook," my husband's boss said, when he found out that my husband doesn't use Facebook. Never has. Sitting at a brunch, overlooking a picturesque golf course, a cerulean stream lacing its edges, with water so clean, I missed the sandy waves at Sea View. Distracting enough to walk into the scorching heat, photograph and promptly upload - "Brunching at the Golf Club with the man himself" #CEObonding#eggsbenedict#neveradullmoment#corporatenetworking# dreamsdocometrue.

Then, pretending to listen to "the man himself", whilst continuously refreshing the page to view new comments until nothing except pop-ups from random sex sites showed up. Eventually reassuring yourself that people would comment once they woke up (lazy!).

[Y]ou can witness the mastered art of the undercover trumpeters -- "See what I came home to: tickets for a surprise five-night cruise, sea-facing villa and a BVLGARI bag!

Amidst the hallucinatory pomp and fanfare, someone's got to lift their head from the nape of the elephant's neck and ask the tough question -- is there a possibility, however remote, that people were in fact awake but chose not to engage? Ouch! Does that mitigate the beauty of the golf course or the experience?

Somewhere from inception to that afternoon, the addiction of Facebook began to escape me. I don't want to sound like a bitter, jilted lover because I'm not. I hate graffiti-ridden media wars following break-ups. Facebook is ingenious -- few can deny that. No other platform placed its finger on the pulse of human psyche as accurately and manipulated its capabilities so they allied effortlessly with our minds. Swifter communication, reconnecting across time and space, cost-effective marketing, mobilising masses. Also painfully narcissistic, attention-craving, image-crafting and envy-invoking, we sometimes choose to forget.

As check-ins and photographs became paramount, Facebook was sedating my sense of real-time elation. I can't imagine why anyone would dilute the experience of a business class flight or the Eiffel Tower or even a plate of fritters by obsessing about Facebook. An ironic reminder that they don't sell class over the counter.

Even when we were riding a wave, the thinly veiled braggarts and cryptic cliff-hangers stood out with their arrestive exhibitionism:

"Didn't realise they were handing out magna cum laudes to party animals!" #graduationmadnesswithmybesties #soblessed'.

"The countdown begins - what a big moment. Wish me luck."

For what, no one knows. Many hang on, desperate to hear more, but the status is rarely explicated. The hungry onlookers have satiated its purpose, while their good luck wishes saunter into the wilderness of the unknown. Radio silence.

By now we were at loggerheads, when the unsolicited "Academy Award acceptance speeches" stormed the scene. An unprecedented outpouring of love, placing the spotless sanctity of relationships centrestage. Sitting 3.5 centimetres away, the subject of the affection proofreads the ode. With final approval solicited, the world can now applaud your utopia. If lucky, you can witness the mastered art of the undercover trumpeters -- "See what I came home to: tickets for a surprise five-night cruise, sea-facing villa and a BVLGARI bag! Speechless." #luckiestwifeintheworld

And there's more where that came from. Furrowing our whimpering love affair were the incessant inviters-- what is ambiguous about reconciling that if your candy crush invite has not been accepted in 1.5 years, the odds for victory wear thin?

Facebook was existentially transforming me as a person... Paralysing good sense, making me miserably dependent on public endorsement...

Now, years later, I remain on Facebook, choose to engage periodically, but cannot sustain the love affair, which I initiated some years ago, on full cylinders. My life and its Mecca has shifted compass. What broke the camel's back was the realisation of how Facebook was existentially transforming me as a person; which nuances it was nurturing, in fact exacerbating, before sprouting them to the world. Paralysing good sense, making me miserably dependent on public endorsement, whilst inadvertently handing a free-for-life front row pass to peeping toms to trail my every move.

In most precarious relationships, there is a morning you'll wake up and realise: "I'm sitting in an A-380, later touring Iceland and creating priceless memories with people who matter. My wall has no proof of how much I love my partner, the photos only stay etched in my memory, yet the world is full." In all likelihood, that's the best time to walk away, even if the heart presses on. Not cold turkey, just at a safe distance, exfoliating the redundancies.

But this is my story and I don't expect it to be better than those of over 1 billion others.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to work out, cook spaghetti, photograph it, finish reading, save the world and sleep! After updating my status of course. Wish me luck!

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