Friend request sent.
With the declining physical social circles and burgeoning online social networking, it is very difficult to befriend someone these days. When I was young(er) and was beginning to “see” people, I would easily walk up to a person and start talking. Soon he would be an acquaintance, then a friend and then a close friend. That’s how things worked. I have many friends who I have befriended in trains, buses, bus stops, tea stalls and admittedly in public toilets. Times have changed. A simple “Hello” or “Namaste” which would otherwise bring a smile to a stranger’s face has conveniently transformed into a “dude stay away from me or I will ‘report abuse’”. Online social acceptance is readily available to beautiful faces, interesting female profiles and well known personalities. Ten years ago it would be easier to go talk to a stranger on a bus stop than approaching a celebrity. That scenario has reversed. I could probably catch a celebrity’s attention than the damsel’s who lives next door.
The statement “I don’t go for looks” is a farce. Today, people do judge the book by its cover, if the “cover” is not appealing, it’s not accepted. There have been many situations when I have “sent a friend request” for no other reason but because I like what the other person expresses or their interesting comments, but I feel insecure that maybe one day I would be subject to “report abuse” and my social networking profile page will be removed permanently. Fortunately or otherwise, I manage to display a picture which is blurred enough not to display the scars on my face or the color of my skin and have managed to be “accepted” by the small number of people I send friend requests to. I write, and admittedly, social networking sites have assisted in spreading my work to distant corners of the globe where I would otherwise not be able to present my work but nine out of ten times, I do consider sending a request and adding someone to my three thousand odd numbered friend list, I shiver. I shiver because I know that one person can report abuse and bring my writing career to an end. I am not a celebrity yet, this would not happen if I was one, I think.
I am also skeptical in sending these requests to co-workers who I otherwise chit-chat and talk to daily. My apprehension comes from the fact that I could encroach someone’s privacy and people who just show that they are so affable on my face but are commenting on my dressing on these sites later, don’t want me to know about it.
On the flip side, due to some characters that abuse the comfortable provisions of these websites and make fake profiles, attach fake photos and trouble people, and like the physical world, the cyber world too is being filled with fear. Fear of being stalked, abused, or defamed. It could be argued that one must have the freedom to choose one’s online company, however it can also be argued that a person’s freedom to approach someone just out of curiosity should not be deemed “unacceptable”.
Accepting or rejecting a person based on the repugnance towards his or her profile picture has become the norm. It could almost be termed as apartheid against which our forefathers have fought many a battle. Sadly, it has again crept into our lives… our online lives.
I speak only through observation; I do not target any particular sex, community, creed, race or religion when I speak of this selection based on one’s profile picture. It is forcing people to display who they are not. Everyone is not born the same, they don’t look the same but let there be no distinction due to it: We are still humans, even though we are becoming more of cyber beings.
The basis of clicking Accept” must not be another discriminating act; we could see a whole new movement and discrimination could again explode, like in history.