05/08/2015 8:20 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Sleazy Side Of Social Media

adults only message on enter key, for pornography websites concepts.
scyther5 via Getty Images
adults only message on enter key, for pornography websites concepts.

My weekend started in an unusual manner. Instead of getting out of bed and heading straight to the balcony like I usually do, I reached for my phone to check if our guests from the previous night had reached home safely. As is the case with smartphones, one thing led to another and I went from my messages to my inbox to Twitter. From the app, following one of my published pieces, I happened to arrive on a friend's page. Since I do not follow him on Twitter, I decided to browse through his profile.

They say you can tell a lot about a man by looking at his Twitter account -- who he follows and who follow him. (OK, I just made that up. But I am certain such a truism will be in circulation soon enough.) Anyway, the first picture I noticed on my friend's page was that of a naked woman: a nice, flat abdomen, and bare breasts. Breasts? I checked again. They were breasts all right. Now, you might be ready for anything early in the morning, but you are certainly not ready for a pair of naked breasts staring at you -- unless you are a man (although I am not sure if they would like it either).

The sight jolted me out of my hangover and curiosity got the better of me. I clicked on the picture and reached a page where I was to see many more such pictures (I shall spare you the details). Since I was on the phone, and quite perturbed by the discovery, I hardly noticed anything else. I was also worried: what if husband finds me checking out naked women while he makes the morning coffee? I quickly shut my browser, cleared the history and kept the phone away.

"[W]ill the pornographic Twitter and Facebook accounts also be banned? My prudish sensibilities only hope so."

For the rest of the morning I found myself distracted and disturbed. Distracted because I cannot handle nudity -- it makes me queasy. Disturbed because I happened to see it on the page of a close friend who I greatly respect and admire. Visions of him fidgeting with his phone -- or laptop -- all night long, doing unmentionable things started cropping up in my mind. I also found myself scrutinising his behaviour, looking for signs of perversion: did he ever do -- or say -- anything to me that he should not have? Does he indulge in such activities often? Should I continue my friendship with him or should I withdraw? Or at least distance myself from him?

Every day while looking up things on Facebook I come across numerous pages that sell and promote pornography. (I now know they also exist on Twitter.) A couple of times, just out of curiosity, I have opened them too, only to be repulsed and shut them quickly. But that is beside the point. The point is: when I cannot curb my curiosity to look at things that come my way, why was I so uncomfortable finding it on his page? Was it because I did not expect him, a respectable man of over 40, to be looking up porn -- and I am assuming that he was, I may be wrong -- or was it because I did not want to acknowledge that it might be completely normal to do something like this?

Hypocrisy surrounding sex in our society is not new. Sex is like our daily ablutions: we all know we all do it but we never acknowledge it. Just as we "freshen up" in the morning, we also "go to bed" at night (and produce babies as a by-product). And porn? I am not sure if an alibi for that even exists. So it was only natural for me, a person brought up with modest middle-class values, to begin to judge someone who not only talks about it openly but also flaunts it on his wall.

But then, the same middle-class values also tell me what he does in his bedroom is none of my business.

After hours of turmoil, I decided to tell him about it: I have known him long enough to know this could not have been intentional. No one -- least of all a man so cautious about his public image -- wants to spill the beans on his personal life on a public platform. But the question was -- how do I tell him? I could not tell him on the phone: what if I embarrassed him or, even worse, myself? Messaging was out of the question: what if his wife read it? And I could of course not wait until we met. So I decided to mail him. I wrote a long mail justifying my being on his page and accidentally discovering his favourite pastime. I got no response, but in a matter of minutes that handle was off his account. I heaved a sigh of relief.

This morning when I read about the government blocking more than 800 porn sites across India, I had only one question in mind: will the pornographic Twitter and Facebook accounts also be banned? My prudish sensibilities only hope so.

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