Why you need Fakebook in your life and how to use it to make people hate theirs

What percentage of your Facebook friends do you actually like? 80%? No come on. 30%? Let’s go with 30% for a second. Out of the remaining 70%, how many would you notice dropping off the surface of earth? 20%? So what exactly is the role of the other 50%? To applaud on cue?

Fakebook-by-Sean MacEntee
CC BY 2.0 Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee on Flickr

I keep asking this question (at least the first part of it) every time a coffee table conversation gets a little dull. The percentages vary of course, but not enough to invalidate the point you’re hoping I’ll eventually get to, which is that Fakebook has a place in our lives, like an abusive boyfriend you never knew you needed before you met him. A little like Edward Cullen in Twilight. Lets break down the reasons:

  1. The eternal wisdom of Sun Tzu/ Niccolò Machiavelli/ Michael Corleone- “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”

You don’t need Fakebook to know what’s going on with that close friend who’s going through a breakup, or the other ones who’s depressed at not getting a job. No, those you hear about, probably more often than you want to. But what about your arch rival from kindergarten who you still secretly hate? What’s that guy up to? Did he buy a new car? That’s the kind of intel you need in order to not be left behind in the rat race.

  1. The Happiness contest 

How do you know you’re happy? What’s that? You would just know? Well if you believe that you are clearly not a very metric driven person. As most of us know, you need some benchmarks for relative grading. The word “happy” is meaningless. You can only be “happier”. And to be happier someone else should be sadder. Just the way it works.

Now, proving that you are in fact happier than your old friends and rivals used to be incredibly complicated before 2006. For starters, you had to work hard at looking better or making more money or both. Then once you do that, you had to let them know you had done it, not an easy task when you’re not all in school together anymore. You needed to attend a lot of alumni meetings and weddings just to let people know how well you are doing. If that wasn’t an option, you sometimes had to figure out which one of your schoolmates are still secretly reliving high school in their heads and get in touch with them in the hope that they will spread the word about your success. As you can see, all this was quite difficult and again had the measurability problem. No feedback loop- no way to find out if it worked or if that little walrus lied and told everyone you’re broke and pot-bellied now.

2006, enter Fakebook. Suddenly, you don’t need to travel across state or national borders to dress up at a wedding. You can attend a local wedding, hold your breath and stand a couple of steps above other people and get a picture clicked. You no longer need that guy who’s trapped in a time loop. In fact, you don’t need to call anyone or send your picture to anybody. You just post it on your wall and act like you didn’t know people were eavesdropping. Real classy. You don’t even need to actually look good or make money. Just starve for a day and buy a coffee at Starbucks and edit the picture. A lot.

Fakebook opens up a whole new battlefield and provides you multiple new strategies for winning the happiness contest, such as:

  1. My mom’s better than your mom:

Pre-2006, it was difficult to walk up to people and tell them that your mom/dad/husband/wife is cooler/more loving/rich than theirs. Sometimes you would go to their homes and you could sense from their smug faces that they thought theirs was better but you had no socially acceptable way to counter it. Now, you can thank yours on their wall for the world’s best anniversary dinner, or use their birthday (and wall) to explain how they make you feel special every day and how lucky you are. Applause/likes are guaranteed from two families.

  1. Airport check-ins:

Self explanatory utility. Potential tactics:

  • Check in at the airport and post a joke about how you thought the Fakebook check in was enough to get on the flight
  • Review the facilities, new terminal, rest room, sugar level in the cafe, etc. Mix it up next time by comparing and contrasting different airports and how each one made you feel
  1. Weekend wars:

There was once a time when the only way to make a single guy or girl depressed about their boring or lonely weekend was to ask them ‘what plans?’ and then make a face. This is one of the few offline tactics which are still effective but Fakebook lets you do it at scale and make a much bigger set of people feel bad about their lives.

Mass reach tactics:

  • Take trophy photos of the steaks and ice creams you hunted down and ate
  • Refer to pub hopping using pictures or multi check ins

The possibilities are endless and I am unable to think of a conclusion to this post so let me end this with a question to the reader. How do you think you can use Fakebook to be ‘happier’?

If this was Fakebook, you could read this and smugly hover over the like button and not click it to make me feel bad about the lack of engagement I got. But guess what. This is my blog and no one knows it exists and I’m just talking to myself anyway so fuck you and your like button.

But you’ll comment right?


The Apathetic Indian

In December 2012, I was on vacation, traveling from one town to another in my home state of Kerala after visiting some friends. I tried to get an AC chair car but the train was too packed, and the TTE (Train Ticket Examiner) refused to let me convert my ticket. So I decided not to take the train and went to get an AC Volvo instead. The bus was late for hours, and then they told me it got canceled, so I ended up traveling in a normal bus. But as I waited and sweated in the sweltering heat, and watched people go about their daily lives around me, I started to see a side of my country I had chosen to forget. A good looking and fashionably dressed girl passed by. I noticed her, yes, but so did a group of guys standing there. I overheard the way they leered at her, the language they used to describe her in detail, a manner of talk that took passing appreciation and turned it into something vile. I saw the root cause of the outrage caused by the recent Delhi rape case. It wasn’t lack of strong laws or commitment from the cops. Yes, those had a part to play but the problem was more deep rooted than that. It was rooted in the degeneration of the moral fiber of a nation, the defilement of a legacy left by great men and women. It was rooted in the desperation of the collective consciousness of a nation of one billion people who no longer had anything to believe in.

I felt an outrage, a suppressed scream in my soul that needed an outlet. But the tragedy was that this too would pass. I thought of writing this then but true to the title of this write up, I didn’t do it for the next four months. For I am the Apathetic Indian..

I am 26 years old, educated and working in a big IT company. I sit in my air conditioned office and come home to my well-kept apartment. I catch up with friends over a beer or a cup of coffee in a pub or a cafe, probably air conditioned. And yet, every day, on my way to work or to a movie, I see the underbelly of our great and growing economy. On my way to the gym in the morning, I pass through a slum, where kids play in the dust, in close proximity to several pigs. I see people fighting on the road. I see trees cut down. I’m thinking of buying a plant and sheltering it inside my apartment, watered every day in a bit of dirt that nobody will dig up to make an illegal water connection, because that is the only place where I am not powerless to guard things which must be guarded. From my balcony, I saw a four year old child breaking bricks with a hammer. At first I thought he was working but then I saw his parents building a wall nearby. It was his version of make believe play, on a Thursday morning when other kids his age would be in school. I felt powerless again and took a few pictures to bear witness.

Every day I see my country limp on while bleeding from a thousand wounds. I know that this country was built on lofty ideals and the sacrifices of heroes, because I have read about it in history classes. I know that men and women gave up their lives for the country and thought it an honor to do so. But I have only read about it. My teachers told me that this was the legacy I inherited from my forefathers. And now, every day I see that legacy tarnished but I have learnt not to notice it on most days.

I live a cocooned life. I’m part of ‘modern’ India. In the places I studied and worked, there are people in charge, cabs to drop the girl’s home, with security guards as escorts. We have Ombudsmen to investigate any instances of sexual harassment. We try to be green. We turn off unnecessary lights and conduct CSR drives to clean up lakes. We have charity sales; even I donate personally from time to time. We do our bit, with more will than the government at least but I know it is not enough.

The country bleeds from a thousand wounds and good people across the country do their bit to dress up the wounds. Their scattered efforts keep the country limping along but they are losing. We are all losing. When we are faced with such a vast problem, and feel helpless to do anything, we retreat to our shells, as a defense mechanism. We try to protect our families, our friends. We try to clean up our apartments and offices. We try to get a semblance of control in a world that seems out of our control, but once in a while something like the Delhi rape happens. And we all understand how unsafe we really are, even in our cocoons. We realize that the ground is falling away under us, just like it is falling away from under the poor and the downtrodden.

Some of my friends and family commented about how they can’t understand some parts of the Delhi protests. The sympathized with the cause but they were wondering why people are protesting after the accused were arrested and trials had started. Protests are supposed to have a specific objective or demand, they said. I told them they are not campaigning for a specific objective. They are congregating with placards and slogans because they saw somebody raising a voice and they had a chance to rally behind a cause. The slogans might be about the Delhi rape but it was about more than that. It was the outcry of a generation that felt helpless as they saw their world crumble around them. It was the guilt of a people who knew they were doing nothing to stop the desecration of their inheritance and knew that the dreams of their ancestors were falling apart on their watch. They lent their voices when they finally saw some cause to believe in, even if it addresses only some of their problems. They protested as long as they could, before that voice would fade as well.

There is an old quote, “The only thing required for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing”. The recent spates of protests were the confessions of a generation who did nothing. Even when they want to, they do not know how to. Elections are now a deliberate exercise to vote for the lesser evil, unless they decide they are all equally bad and stay at home to watch a movie
They say that people who want power never deserve power and people who deserve power never want it. But maybe we have a responsibility to take up responsibility when the ones we put in charge have neither the will nor the moral fiber to act. I put off writing this for months because I retreated into my apathy. Then today, a friend of mine, as powerless as I am spoke up in a Facebook post. I finally felt the chains of complacency loosen their hold a little.

I thought, if I can lend my voice to his, and someone else can lend a voice to mine, maybe we won’t be as powerless. In each other’s sense of outrage, maybe we can find hope. In each other’s voice, maybe we can find something to believe in again.

(Originally written in 2013. The response to this post inspired me to take up writing more seriously but true to the title, I stopped again for years)