I come from a generation that has ‘seen it all’. We have had a real childhood without IPads or video games or Facebook accounts at the age of 9. When photographs were actually developed and preserved in neatly organised albums and the only drama in life was about missing crayons.
I’ve known landlines, the piercing dial-tone, and the fuss with extra zeroes. We didn’t have a phone at home. So we would go to STD booths to call our relatives but mostly communicated through green inland letters. I remember my aunt, who loves to talk a lot, would leave little space between words so they were barely distinguishable and wrote in a snug, compact scrawl.
This was soon succeeded by mobile phones taking over the world and sms becoming the new fad. Since then the world has lost the art of taking notes using full, whole words.
Any kind of writing that demanded speed would be shredded into sms lingo. Those times witnessed a lot of reasonably intelligent people becoming vocabulary-impaired.
My sister was in college back then and all sorts of gossips, information and plannings found their way through sms. I would usually wake up in the middle of night to the noise of the ticking keypad. Often she would end up spending more on sms vouchers than talktime. It was pretty normal for a single person to exchange 300-400 messages a day.
Then came a time when I would frequently hear my friends talking about pictures, tags and tagging. I would feel utterly perplexed and ‘out-of-context’ in such conversations. So I enquired the most trusted friend, the one I can afford to be stupid with. She was somewhat less clueless, but not the best person to consult. She told me all these terms had something to do with something called Facebook. So I grabbed my first chance to google about Facebook, and create an experimental Facebook account.
I am always averse to seeking help when it could make me look technologically impaired. So i explored Facebook on my own and discovered how stuff like friend requests, pokes, DPs , posts and tags worked. I went quite silly at first as everyone who’s new to the virtual world does. I posted over-long comments; tagged people in pictures with emotional quotes and got overjoyed when someone would tag me in pictures stating stuff like ‘friends forever’ or some random picture with teddies, flowers, bow ties, and fairies. Till date I am scared to look back at any of my posts dated 2010 (though I believe I’ve got rid of most of it.)
I was most delighted to find my relatives and cousins over FB as I hardly get to meet them unless there is some family function. I talked to them, got to know them better. It felt like there was finally a way to get close to my extended family as living away from our hometown left little scope for long conversations.
FB was somewhat like a fairy tale world which gave me a sense of being close and connected, of getting to know people better.
But then some of the classroom bullies stepped in and made life difficult for me. I was usually a shy introvert and my FB account came as a surprise to many. Some of the meanest lot gave me certain insulting tags (the girl who keeps getting into shit, for example), and I was occasionally mocked when I would leave a simple, innocent comment saying ’nice pic’ on a classmates picture and things would get worse when I chose to hit back. But then they would need help with school-work and convince me that everything was in good humour. It took me time to figure out that I was slowly becoming a punchbag for frustrated meanies .So I restrained my online activities to reading and liking posts and blocked out anyone I didn’t feel comfortable having on my friendlist.
I finally sat down one day and explored all my privacy options so I may enjoy interacting with family and close friends while the privacy settings kept a watch on bullies. I stopped dolling out favours to anyone but people whom I felt secure with.
That phase surely helped me a lot in understanding how to avoid or deal with any unpleasantness online.
I had an Orkut account just to explore how it was different from FB but never used it much.
Then I entered college and discovered people have moved from CRT desktops, keypad phones and uh…..Facebook. The world had moved over to smartphones, sharing apps, Whatsapp was doing what Facebook did to Orkut and I was struggling to keep up with the world armed with my desktop and Nokia x101. People would throw irritated glances when I would ask for stuff to be shared on email or Facebook.
I heaved a sigh of relief when my sister bought me a smartphone.
I no longer had to wait for the radio to play my favourite song. I could watch and re-watch my favourite shows and movies. Memories were instantly shared and preserved through photographs, and homeworks and assignments seemed impossible to complete without Whatsapp.
Whatsapp was the next thing that grabbed my fascination after Facebook. I loved to share stuff, play around with emojis and I absolutely loved the out-of–the-world feeling when friends would change their DPs and status to wish me on my birthday. I had instant access to everyone and everything. Life seemed so easy when I had my phone around.
But all that thrill was short-lived as being connected 24*7 became too much to handle at times. Everybody would expect instant replies, and lying was out of question with the wicked blue ticks around. I would often find myself surfing the internet through the night, and wake up to sore, puffy eyes. At times, I would blow my mind, get offline, put my phone on airplane mode to shut out the world, knowing I would have a lot of questions to answer to later.
I try to do things on a moderate scale now, using messaging and social networking only to the point that it won’t interfere with my peace or sanity so I don’t have to shut out people and feel bad about it. I’ve been there, done that and I know better. The virtual has helped me appreciate the real around me, knowing that it’s getting rare….
It seriously amazes me when I look back at all the eras I have been through. Of all the generations that have dwelled the earth, I think the 90’s will have a lot of stories to tell…… 🙂