Social networking, specially Facebook, for me is the platform through which I discuss the things that I love with people all over the world who are on a similar wavelength. I share my passion for music and Jimmy Page, my beloved animals, my treasured books. Each day I am enriched by the experiences and thoughts of my friends. To me, Facebook has never been about posting 80-odd photos of an enviable trip to Switzerland, or "checking in" at the Maurya Sheraton, while actually having anda paratha in the excellent dhaba nearby. There was a brilliant meme doing the rounds sometime back which said ''People are not what they all post to be!"
Then again, I am quite aghast at the outpourings of love and lust for which Facebook is often used, especially with husbands and wives being "friends" with each other too. I cringle when status updates proudly proclaim details such as "Day 1 of Honeymoon: I have found heaven on earth."
However, nursing a bad head cold and fever due to the weather change in New Delhi, I was forced to spend Friday night in bed, declining with a heavy heart, the beautifully crazy friends' invitation for "Sabbath, Soup & Momos". This led me to be on Facebook deep and long into the night.
It was a night of revelations.
"While she was her usual hot, chhamak-chalo self in pink and purple, I, not adequately caffeinated, looked sullen, Grinch-y with mascara streaming and in grungy jeans and a T-shirt."
I finally checked out Facebook's friend suggestions about people I may know. Amongst the suggestions were many real-life friends not on my FB list, office colleagues, doctors, my parents' friends, animal rights activists, event management guys, lawyers etc. I realised that these were my mobile contacts on my smart phone which had been accessed. I don't know whether this was a recent change because I stay pretty much disconnected with all these upgrades, permissions, privacy settings and so on.
My Facebook friend suggestions also included the most essential people in my life and mobile: ( a) my household help, Sandhya Kumari,( b) my local momo wala, Danny Lepcha, ( c) my cook, Joy Biswas, ( d) my neighbourhood street-food chap specialising in masala boiled eggs and omelettes, Babloo Kumar and (e) my man Friday, Brijnath Yadav.
Perhaps then, somewhere, the Dark Gods laughed. Voyeuristically, I went to their pages.
There, I found that Joy Biswas, my cook, while on two days of sick leave, had actually gone to see the Taj Mahal with his wife. Their uber-romantic image in front of the Taj Mahal did not melt my heart or lessen the pain of eating leftover pizza for two days. I smiled at Danny's profile picture of him feeding stray dogs. No wonder his momos are spectacular, I thought. Babloo Kumar, the shy, earnest reddi-wala from Chapra Bihar, had posted a raunchy Bhojpuri song. The lyrics made me blush beetroot red. The devoutly religious Brijnath Yadav had updated his status thus: "Yadav ji Rocks".
The one that killed me was a picture that my help Sandhya had posted. It was of her and me in the morning. While she was her usual hot, chhamak-chalo self in pink and purple, I, not adequately caffeinated, looked sullen, Grinch-y with mascara streaming and in grungy jeans and a T-shirt.
The photograph had 127 'likes', with comments like jhakkaas (hot), oofo sundori (oh beautiful), kahaan se suit liya hai (where did you buy the dress from) etc. I realised that the entire domestic help community of South Delhi and possibly the ones that keep saying a deferential salaam-namaste to me, on my reluctant morning trips to Mother Dairy, had seen this photograph. A tragically annihilating comment on the photograph was "Yeh teri maalkin hai? Ekdum style nahi hai re! Tu zyaada mast aur hot". Translation: 'Is that your mistress/employer? She is so un-stylish. You are more hot and happening".
I slunk back from the world of terror created by Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook hasn't been the same since then.
A version of this post appeared on The Accidental Sufi.