About 12 years ago, in the month of December 2004, I learned about something called blogging from a Hindustan Times "Brunch" article. Within hours of reading the article I had my first blog, This Is My Truth, on rediffblogs.com.
It changed my life. Change, in fact, is a small word, it was a rebirth. I reinvented myself with blogging, I uncovered aspects of my life I didn't know existed and made myself the person I am today.
Initial bloggers in India were generally techies or journalists, naturally more males than females among them. I was this rare breed of female personal blogger writing about love, relationships, heartbreak, men (and how I do not understand them) with a touch of politics.
My blog was an instant hit. You know how I know that it was an instant hit? I mean those days we didn't have any feature to count your page views, key words tracking and all; Google Analytics wasn't launched until towards the end of 2005. I knew my blog was a hit because of the number of comments I received. Because a faceless audience out there communicated and told me they were reading my stuff.
Today I have more than 1500 "friends" on Facebook, 3000 followers on Twitter and yet I feel lonelier than ever.
The innocent beauty in this was that I started writing without having any idea that it would be read and appreciated. I wrote because I had no one to talk to. I just wanted to share a lot of thoughts from my heart but I didn't know who to speak to.
Fellow bloggers from that era have all gone bigger, become more popular, written books, become blog experts. I am still stuck at Facebook and Twitter, seeking acceptance, validation and appreciation. The twisted story of my life is that I was always ahead of the times, and had more than enough talent. Incredibly big opportunities knocked on my door, which I grabbed, but ultimately failed to take to fruition. Anyway, that's another story for another day. The point I am trying to make today is that Facebook and social media in general are making me miserable.
Something is very wrong with me. There was a time I didn't have friends either in real life or the virtual domain. Today I have more than 1500 "friends" on Facebook, 3000 followers on Twitter and yet I feel lonelier than ever. Because these people hardly communicate with me and when they do, it's never in accordance with my expectations.
Here's an example: on a certain day I posted two things on Facebook, 1) A very sad feeling of being heartbroken and in need of a hug, 2) A stupid photo of me in a stupid hat. The hat got over 30 likes, but the sad post earned me a total of zero words of comfort or virtual hugs. I was so frustrated I deleted the hat photo.
My best friend had some sharp words for me: "Nobody gives a rat's ass about you on social media, whether you live or die..."
People find it easier to cheer for pretentious, happy updates and feel totally clueless about what to do with your misery. And that's just so superficial it frustrates me. Because let's be honest, more often than not, both the happiness and the cheerleading are a farce.
My social media existential crisis
This is my existential crisis in social media today. What am I doing? What are others doing? What kind of validation am I seeking and why? Why is it important that people respond to my misery as much as they do my happiness? My best friend had some sharp words for me: "Nobody gives a rat's ass about you on social media, whether you live or die. Everybody has a life to deal with. Yet here you are posting the most intimate details of your life, your misery, for an audience that just doesn't care."
She is right, and she is talking in general, not just about me. But the question, then, is, why are we sharing our happiness? If nobody gives a rat's ass about us, let's close our Facebook accounts. Why is the argument that one should not share intimate miserable details and only put up a happy face?
A social media experiment
As I said, existential crisis. Anyway, so I thought I am going to do something about it. I am going to be off social media in the sense that I will still "share" but won't seek acceptance, validation and appreciation. Meaning, I will post links and so on, but not keep checking to see how many likes or retweets I've earned.
Here's my plan for myself
- Uninstall Facebook and Twitter from smartphone.
- Write one blog post a day sharing all that comes to my mind through that day, things I might have otherwise shared on FB or Twitter
- Read news directly from news websites or find social media memes directly from the website. (Actually, cut down on social media memes; they are plain stupid)
- Write a report at end of the experiment addressing the existential questions.
I am going to be off social media in the sense that I will still "share" but won't seek acceptance, validation and appreciation.
Let me do this for seven to 10 days and document the difficulties I face. There are obvious challenges, I am already aware of that. I am certainly not someone who dismisses the importance of social media in today's world. For example, I get business to my photography from my Facebook page. But let me try.
The other thing to observe in this experiment is how many people communicate on my blog. You see, blogs to be honest are dead. They are like graveyards you visit with flowers to talk to the souls departed. You sit for a while, shed a few tears and then move on. For living people, you go to Facebook and Twitter. Let's see if anybody visits this grave. You can find my blog, where the experiment is unfolding, here.
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