In the virtual world

I saw a comment that someone had posted on face book which said that FB should have options like "dislike", "disgusting" etc for certain kind of status messages and comments- I couldn't agree more! The few months that I have been on this social networking site have been an eye opener- last week particularly when we in India were on an all time high after winning the world cup and some days before that hoping to win it. I saw messages that said " Let our men in blue beat the lives out of the green pyjama wearing guys"- this is the message prior to the Mohali match between India and Pakistan. I was told by a friend that someone she knew had posted another message during the India - Sri Lanka match that said " The last chapter of Ramayan gets played out today" !! Absolutely insensitive and chauvinistic!

A couple of months ago I had an unpleasant experience when a former colleague who has been in touch with me on FB started posting some highly right wing comments to my status messages. Messages of mine that were nothing more controversial than praising Al Pacino's acting in the "Merchant of Venice" invited some really  harsh comments about Jewish people, the Catholic faith etc etc.. He had done this on earlier occasions too on FB so I was not really suprised. But what really shocked me was that  I had no inkling about these values of his while we were colleagues. He used to be a quiet chap and was considered very well informed on his portfolio. His reports used to be good and he was easy to work with. So where was this side to him? Did it suddenly develop after two months of leaving our organization? I dont think so- I think it was probably always there only it never showed itself in our face to face interactions!

This brings us to an interesting question- does the virtual world make us shed our inhibitions and show us in our true colours? I had read sometime ago, an article in a magazine that said that relationships  between men and women that begin through social networking sites often progress much  quicker than relationships that began the usual way ( that is couples meet, strike up a conversation, go on a date etc ).  I was discussing this with my husband yesterday and he seemed to think otherwise. He said that people who communicated through a virtual medium were often devoid of emotions.

However, I beg to differ. I think the virtual medium makes us shed our inhibitions very quickly because relationships within it are negotiated through a keyboard and therefore emotions are easier to express. A  man or a woman may feel more confident to flirt with someone virtually than face to face. It is probably easier to type things out that you cannot hear yourself speak. We therefore behave more sponteneously while on line than when on ground. But having said that I must also mention that the virtual world gives us the chance to think carefully about what we want to say - atleast we are not confronted by a person who has asked us something and is waiting for an answer across the room! This is particularly so in the case of Face book where people get enough time to think of suitablly witty answers to someone's comment.

I think the virtual world gives us the option to present ourselves the way we want the world to see us while also putting us in danger of revealing ourselves in our true colours. So it is a double edged sword..! We confirm as our friends on face book people we may know vaguely and then have to put up with the embarrassment of having them post disgusting messages. I have had school friends ask me " Hey who is that bigot?" ( this is my old "friend" I had mentioned earlier who I have now "unfriended"). Ofcourse some comments are not so obnoxious and people actually get by thinking it is quite witty and suddenly I find that what passes for humour is nothing but intolerence of another culture. 

Sometimes it is alarming, the rate at which these virtual interactions are increasing in our lives. A friend of mine met and married a man who she met online ( in India we have these matrimonial sites ). Today she is trying to get out of this relationship which was nothing but a sham- the man in question had not even completed school and after marriage started abusing her. She did not have the advantage of a real social network in the sense that she had lost both her parents and was on her own!

But I am not saying that social networking is bad- far from it! Sites like facebook have reunited me with my school friends and helped me stay with friends who have moved out of my town. It is just that like all good things- there is a dark and unknown side to it which  I am trying to reflect on it.. !


  1. Comments in the public domain are like chewing gum stuck to a table ... they are very difficult to get rid of.I really dislike those who make comments as "anonymous".These are the hidden faces or those who have no faces,cowards who are afraid to come out.At least,if someone makes out a comment in public,we know his attitudes.

    The road ahead for social networking technologies is fraught with danger. We must educate and remind ourselves of the consequences of out of place comments and thoughtless relationships over the internet.

  2. Very valid point! FB does provide a great place to reconnect with friends but one has to be very careful about what one posts in a public domain. A stray word here and there could prove detrimental to relationships unknowingly.

  3. Totally agree with you, I wonder what would have happened had SRI LANKA won.. it would have been Ravans win over RAM.. :)

    Dont know why we do this giving the names of our GOD's to mere mortals.. and FB is not very good it has a lot of problems .. We get so many reports against it People are getting BULLIEd on it tooo

    we have to be very careful these days .. its not what you see ONLINE .. its what you DO NOT See :)


  4. This is very true Meera. As you say, I think people feel it easier to shed their inhibitions on FB or other sites-internet being so faceless!! I remember the comment you are referring to. Just recently, a friend had put a status message about the provisional results of Census 2011 and that India's population had grown. One horrible comment said'Insaan insaan ko kha jayega' (man will eat man). The person was not on my friend list but I addressed a comment saying that look at it positively - just think of the human resource potential we have and if all stakeholders (govt, civil society, private sector etc) did their bit the same population could put us on a great growth path. Then the guy replied saying 'Deepaji, you have answered your own question. There is a big IF'. My friend told me privately that the guy was a politician!!

  5. Meera, you have summed up in the last line' It is just that like all good things- there is a dark and unknown side to it '.One must be more cautious than in real world as the virtual world is shrouded in secrecy.

  6. Good post.... No doubt these social networks are good as far as being in touch with our dear ones is concerned, buttttttt again there are some draw backs with it, as you mentioned in ur write up here...... so one has to be care full while selecting the frnd with whom you he/she is communicating with.

  7. Very interesting post. I agree with you. In virtual world people are more uninhibited than in real life. Someone who may have never been comfortable to express his/her views in real life, may find a whole big platform to express himself/herself. I guess another thing that helps is you don't need to see the facial expressions of a person, and it's a lot easier to say so many things that may not have been possible while in a face to face conversation. Sometimes it's easier to share something with a stranger than acquaintances. But yes, many people fall prey to fake identities in virtual world too.

  8. People do shed their inhibitions online.. but what is irritating is after showing their different side online when I meet that person, the online side is hidden.. so the point is if that person thinks that it is not appropriate to show that side of his/her to me in reality, then why show it online.. this behaviour is disgusting.. And the sutble bullying games people play.. Two of my friends resorted to this.. When they would meet they were cordial as ever, but in social sites, their comments to each others' post showed the cold war kind of thing going between them and being fuelled by other people's comments.. whereas in reality everyone was cordial to each other..


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