Sunday, July 6, 2014

Getting Social

Are you getting social?  
Today everyone just wants to get social - however, with whoever, whenever and wherever. Any reason is reason enough or most of the times, reason is not required. We use hashtags on almost every possible topic we write or comment on, when online. Whether in office or college, we expect people to 'get social'. These days even school children need to 'get social'. In fact, even animals are not spared. They are also expected to follow suit, under the able guidance of their social parents. Even filmstars, politicians, sportstars, artists, and religious leaders - all are in a race to 'get social'. The urban youth is perhaps leading the race by virtue of accessibility to information, technology knowledge and interest to stay connected.

How are we socializing?
Oh, come on! We all know that. Over the internet, social networking sites, instant messengers, voice chats, video chats, and more.

Why we love it?
Ah, when a friend of mine was vacationing in Goa, he was thrilled that each time he 'checked in' to a new beach, he got over 20 'likes'. When he shared a photo at his favorite restaurant, the likes and comments even crossed 100. What's more, he got at least 7-8 new friend requests after he posted his profile picture on a popular social networking site. He was posing on a water scooter and had his new sunglasses on, which he specially bought for his online friends to admire! Each day he returned to the hotel a bit early as he needed to upload fresh pictures. Since the wi-fi was slow near the beach, he couldn't post all the pictures from his cell phone! How frustrating! Such a wonderful opportunity to get social - wasted, I thought ;). When I asked who he was traveling with, he mentioned his family. His wife also loved the virtual world. Since the kid is just 4, they would often keep him busy with their tablets or phones. Thank god for online games! So, the child didn't play on the beach, I wondered! 'Are you kidding me?' he replied. 'My kid hates dirt and we are happy he doesnt create a mess with the sand and stuff!'. 

The interaction with this friend and several others often leave me confused. There are times that I don't visit any social networking site. I hate it when a social site reminds me to wish someone on their birthday! I don't even want the list - I know whom to wish and call up. Why should I wish someone who lived in my neighborhood for 18 years but we never spoke? Why should I even befriend him/her on a social networking site? When I am on a holiday - YES, I am on a holiday. If I do not 'check in' every 2 hours at every mall or eating joint I visit, if I don't use a 'hashtag' to express my emotions, am I unsocial? I talk to my family and close friends every day, even if they reside in a different city or country. Some of the people closest to me are not even on my social network 'online'. Or even if they are, they are the most 'unsocial' there.

Loving the virtual world.
We all love good pictures, good reviews, comments on our posts (that includes blogs!). I too love it all -- the colorful and vibrant virtual world around me. Like many others, I am enthusiastic about digital communication, collaboration and partnerships. But I don't understand what it has got to do with me being social! If I don't have my profile updated on a job site, you can call me 'technologically slow'. But certainly not unsocial. If I don't chat with you online but prefer to read a book or play badminton instead, you can call me 'ancient' but not unsocial. Besides, at that time, you are anyway busy multi-chatting and copy pasting similar responses to the others.

I think it's time for all of us to 'get social'. By that I mean - spending time with people who matter, enrolling for that long pending 'zumba' or 'foreign language' class, hanging out with friends, laughing our hearts out, physically visiting a charity or animal welfare NGO. Get social real-time. Don't fiddle with your phone when you are out on a date or visiting your parents for dinner after a week! The senior citizens, especially in India silently bear the unsocial behavior of their 'virtually social' children, everyday. For a start, why not switch off your phone and spend an evening listening to stories from their past? 

Are you ready to 'get social'?

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