Monday, February 07, 2011
The country of the blind
Some of my closest friends now hold dual citizenship. In every case, the second loyalty is to the third most populous demographic group in the world, one with more inhabitants than the USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Bangladesh or Russia and less than only China and India. I’ve visited this realm. Correction – I visit it. Quite often, if not regularly. It’s a strange and wondrous place; I’m yet to see tangerine trees and marmalade skies there (or, alas, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes), but it does have pink cows that give instant strawberry milk shake. It has its problems, such as the sudden and mysterious outbreaks of minor physical violence in the form of “pokes”, but all in all it is a peaceful place despite the apparent lack of productive economic activity. Its external relations are exemplary. Since it places no restrictions on citizenship or indeed on loyalty, its denizens also inhabit other countries of the same sort and they all seem to get along famously.
The major problem, of course, is that the real world intrudes so often. Surely we’d all be so much happier if we lived forever after in the-world-that-Mark-built? Hours and days on end spent “liking” each other’s status messages, notes, comments, photographs. Sharing long-forgotten musical masterpieces by the likes of The Monkees or Anuradha Paudwal. Uploading photographs of our vacations, our families, friends, parties, pets, food, bowel movements. There must be enough economic production on Farmville and enough governance in the form of Mafia Wars. Surely this is the state of enlightenment the poet envisaged when he wrote “Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake”?
In the beginning, of course, there was Orkut. Mr. Buyyukkokten’s (I kid you not, that is his name!) creation in the dim and distant past (2004) was very important because it started the social phenomenon of “fransip”. Before Orkut, young men – sensitive, caring, intelligent, young men of luminous charm with great social skills – had little opportunity to “mek fransip”. Their options were limited to circling on their motorbikes round women waiting at bus-stops. Or making, through pursed lips, sounds that could have come from a flatulent duck but were actually meant to indicate deep mental processes. Once they discovered Orkut, their great creativity and sensitivity found its rightful outlet. These young men could then demonstrate their intelligence and charm by repeatedly “scrapping” young women’s profiles and, as a follow-up, posting photographs of their own pelvic regions. Strangely enough, Orkut went into decline despite these wonderful features. (A quick tip for Facebook users who have migrated from Orkut – if a woman sends a man a “friend request”, said request does not have a sub-text that reads “I want to have your babies”. Seriously. Take my word on this.)
Then, of course, the heavens shook, lightning flashed, John Williams composed his grandest music ever with bass notes that could make continents vibrate, and Facebook was created. (This scene was edited from “The Social Network”.) Mark Zuckerberg is undoubtedly one of the most influential men of the 21st century. After all, they didn’t make a movie about Mahatma Gandhi till 32 years after he died; Zuckerberg has a movie about him before he’s 32! And while it may not show very nice things about him, it has been nominated for the Oscars. There is absolutely no truth to the report that Mark sent copies of the issue of TIME magazine – the one with him on the cover - to David Fincher and Jesse Eisenberg with a handwritten note that said “Nyaaah nyaaah nyaah!” Now if I could only figure out why I can’t upload clips from that film to my Facebook account …
Before my friends on Facebook denounce me as a hypocrite, I would like to clarify that I have a Facebook account. With friends. And status updates. And even albums. In short, I am a citizen of Zucker-burgh. And I have no doubt that the very concept of Facebook is awesome in its simplicity. It is such a convenient means not only to keep in touch with one’s friends and relatives but also to build networks. To create fora for discussing matters of great importance and relevance. To mobilize opinion on issues that matter. For example, President Mubarak has made the first peace offering to the Tahrir Square protesters. Not only has he posted pictures of the gathering in his “Friends” album, he has even sent friend requests to the ones in the front rows. (For the first time, Facebook invites were delivered in person. By large policemen.) Besides, the team at Facebook are active on social issues. They now propose to set up Amber Alerts to help search for missing children. Only pessimists and Republicans would say that half those children wouldn’t have been missing if their parents had logged off from Facebook and spent more time with their children in the first place.
In any case, social networks are here to stay. How will the world recognize the creator of the largest network? Hard to say, but we have one hint – the White House may soon announce the first virtual First Pet. In the meantime, wait for the inevitable merger of the larger social networks, viz. MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. Coming soon – My Twit Face.
Messenger of Allah