By Sandeep Sahu
As Facebook celebrates 12 years of its epoch-making existence, I thought I would write my two-penny worth tribute to this global behemoth that has compressed the world to the size of a computer - or a smart phone - screen .
For starters, Facebook (FB for those can’t do without abbreviations) was the first – and so far the lone – friend wishing me Happy Friends Day. The wish came with a 57-second video that captures the memorable moments I spent and the wonderful exchanges I had with some of my friends on FB. It certainly tasted better than the customary cake that is the staple on such occasions. I am sure millions of others too would have been touched by this wonderful gesture with an endearing personal touch. [Cynics would no doubt crib that it is yet another marketing gimmick by FB. But then how many birthday boys (or girls?) would present a gift to their friends on a day when they are expected to receive all the gifts?]
It was the proverbial Love at First Sight when I jumped unto the FB bandwagon sometime in 2009, propelled more by curiosity than anything else. [I would like to believe it was the same with others too.] But in the seven years since then, FB has become such an integral part of my life I shudder to think about a day when it is not there.
How would I have reconnected with good friend Sisir, had it not been for Facebook? How would I have made friends with Sahashransu – a friendship that has turned out to be more intimate and durable than friendships made in the real world - if there was no FB? Who else would I have poured my heart out to in moments of extreme elation or debilitating depression? Before FB, my good friend KK would always complain that I forgot to wish him on his birthday. Now he does not have a chance in hell to grumble; FB is there to remind me, well in time!
Facebook has done some truly amazing things over the years. A couple of years ago, my daughter, then a student of an engineering college, lost her wallet which, among other things, had her all-important identity card. A girl got the wallet, checked out the I-Card and then posted a message on FB which was duly picked up and conveyed to my daughter by her friend who was on the Good Samaritan’s friend list. The wallet, with everything, including the money, intact, returned to its rightful owner before she could even start moaning the loss!
I am sure everyone has a favourite story of his/her own on what Facebook has done for them. But the one story that must have warmed everyone’s heart in recent days was that of 60-year old Deb Miller who flew all the way from California to be part of the marriage ceremony of her ‘Facebook son’ Krishna Mohan Tripathy in Gorakhpur. [And you thought you only make ‘friends’ on FB!]
It is not as if I am not on Twitter, supposedly the most happening place in cyberspace. As a journalist who has to be on top of the news all the time, I hardly have a choice. But given a choice, I would prefer Facebook to its more illustrious competitor – any day. For one thing, the 140-character limit is a huge disincentive for someone who has always revelled in the beauty of the written word This restriction comes with the inevitable compulsion of having to twist words beyond all shape and size – eg. Gr8 for great, shd for should, fav for favourite – something I have hated since the beginning. For another, it does not provide you the wonderful option of ‘chatting’ with your friends.
In any case, I would rather be a ‘friend’ to someone than a ‘follower’. So, while I would be on Twitter for professional reasons, my heart will always be in Facebbok.
I have one request to Mark Zuckerberg, though. Now that Twitter is reportedly considering extending the space available to its users to 1000 characters to whittle down the advantage you have, you might as well consider returning the compliment by lifting your 5000-friend limit!