I know nothing about sex because I was always married. – Zsa Zsa Gabor
With due respect – and with a slight twist while keeping the flavour:
We know everything about social networking because we were never social.
I’d like to dedicate my quote to all social networking initiatives, sites, professionals and users. (And by the way, I too have memberships of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).
First, a bunch of disclaimers:
1. If it creates controversy, great. It is meant to. If it provokes your intelligence and emotions; and punctures your ego, my job is done. It is intended to.
2. I have no intention here to suggest ‘mine-is-better-than-yours’ OR that Indian culture is any better than others.
3. This is not a patriotic or a political rambling. So please read between the lines. (If you read only with your eyes, white space is all you’ll see).
4. This post is an ‘equal opportunity, equal responsibility’ piece. Me included.
My thesis is simple. India does NOT need Facebook. Because, like most other eastern cultures, our karmic way ‘binds’ us together through family and social values. For some of us adventurers, our people’s expectation of social interactions has even bordered on the oppressive. To some cultures we seem ‘fatalistic’, ‘subservient’, ‘unimaginative’ and sometimes even ‘weak’. The problem is the point of reference. That’s all. Our fatalism has taught us not to push beyond a point for selfish gain. This has made our society relatively more sustainable. Our subservience gives us the opportunity to listen to others and not argue merely to prove a point. Unimaginative? Well, that depends on what you’re looking at. Generations of our craftsmen continue to thrall the world with the abandon with which they use colour, material and skills – innovating beyond compare. India’s vast and mature cultural heritage is a silent testimony that we are a ‘values-driven’ society. As for being weak, we believe there’s no need for a ‘show’ of strength. The power is within and stays within.
I can almost hear the din of some passion-driven NGOs as well as NRIs (Non Returning Indians). “What about the squalor, corruption, crime, violation of human rights, caste divisions, communalism and political apathy? This fancy tribute you’re paying to India when 70% of the population stays below the poverty line,” they say. “Go see the Oscar-ridden Slumdog Millionaire for the real India.” OK guys. But this is not about India, the political slum. It’s about social networking.
My question is this …
What could be more discomforting than needing networking to be a ‘tool’ for being social? Next we’ll be ‘Wall-to-wall’ing Mom to tell her we can’t do the dishes!
When one’s success is measured only by the ‘quantities’ of material possession, and the society endorses this, the ‘quality’ part, marked by im-material assets – relationships, human values, charity – takes a back seat. Then it only a matter of time before it becomes self-fulfilling and perpetuating. Birds of a feather … remember the proverb? When a society has not only endorsed this value system but also enabled it, you need to start ‘networking’ again, even with your loved ones. In our mindless race for material oneupmanship we’ve only been able to push our natural gregariousness to the back of our lives. Every once in a while the ‘void’ surfaces. Yes, then we need ‘networking’. And often we take to it with a vengeance. Our competitive measurements again become ‘quantities’. The number (2,136 and growing) of faceless ‘friends’ connected through cyberia.
So here’s the moral to all this. There’s little value in prefixing the word ‘Social’ to media, networking, technologies, welfare or any other word if all we’re doing is creating technology-based spaces or empty political propaganda. Wordplay sounds nice, looks good in a presentation and creates great news hooks. ‘Social’ has to do with society – a particular society. And society is shaped by people that have passion, conviction and a sense of belonging. Technology is only the toolbox for social change. Technopreneurs must take it as their duty to identify the value – and ‘values’ that their ‘products’ will provide to those who will use them. Only then can they hope to positively transform and sustainably impact society as a whole. Facebook, sadly does not take any such responsibility. Nor, I’m afraid, do any of the other social networking platforms.