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Intolerance and the Art of Losing Friends on Social Media

1 Dec

Once you had some awesome friends! First, they came from your neighborhood – fondly known as your chaddi buddies. Then you got introduced to more friends during your happy times such as family events, religious festivals or community celebrations. As you grew and joined school or college, you made many more wonderful friends and by the sheer length of our educational system you really got to spend a lot more time with your friends than your parents and siblings themselves. When you got a job, you probably made a few friends at your workplace as well and still more in the new community where you lived with your own nuclear family. Needless to say, most of your friends were from multiple religions and regions with varying social backgrounds and political views; some even spoke a different language than yours!

As you grow older, the maturity level of friendships at different stages of life was expected to improve and the acceptance of the above-mentioned diversity was instrumental in maintaining those friendships. And it did work that way too as most of your discussions were face to face and healthy despite political, religious, and cultural differences. Whenever you thought your discussions went astray or not in the right spirit, you could feel the same and you (or others in the circle) intervened immediately and took corrective measures. And most importantly, you still used all your senses in maintaining relationships!

Then the (Online) Social Networks came into existence which gave you a wonderful opportunity to (re)connect with all your friends from the past and present. Due to the ‘open nature’ of these networks, you discovered new friends, acquaintances and even strangers who eventually became your friends! The technology suddenly became so good and handy. You could not only share photos, audio and video from your own personal life but from other individuals, media or publishing houses too! The concept of ‘viral’ came into play and the new generation media tapped into every opportunity to dig out sensational topics, manufacture news, create #hashtags, and send the same to you so that you can share it with your ‘audience’ (not necessarily friends) as well. You became ‘carriers’ and ‘propagators’ of such thoughts and opinions that weren’t originally yours. Campaign houses, News curators and Content creators rejoiced at your cost. The more sensational the story was, the faster it spread! And you really enjoyed playing your part in spreading it – sometimes even unverified and far-from-truth content too, because you were already bought into a plan!

But you didn’t notice one thing! Your relationship with your friends was somehow getting affected on the Social Media (and hence outside that domain as well) without you having a clue about it.

And how exactly did it happen?

  • On the Social Networks, the difference between your family, friends, acquaintances and the general public was fast disappearing and for you everyone was the same – i.e. your audience!
  • Due to the above reason, you thought your audience would relate to your favorite topics as well – be it related to your Religion, Caste, Political Party, Modi, Rahul, Kejriwal, Beef, AwardWapsi, Khan or Kher
  • You were not really reading your audience with all your senses open (lost opportunity with technology?) and hence your views were mostly one-sided or skewed. You just clicked, touched, liked, shared, and LOLed for everything (and used your brain lesser) with the technology created separation between you and your audience
  • Due to the above mentioned separation, you could strongly tell things that you wouldn’t otherwise tell to someone in your face-to-face discussions or chitchats! You were not inhibited when it came to openly venting your extreme views on sensitive topics such as Religion, Politics, Racism etc
  • Once you were opinionated, you would argue endlessly, would use strong words and would try every bit to convince yourself and your audience that your point of view was always right! You thought you were the most logical person in the world. The Social Media proved to be a great platform for even the shyest person in real life to be highly logical and open! Of course, you were logical – in a set that contained just you. i.e. { you } :)
  • Eventually, your Online Social Circle became a bunch of those of who ‘liked’ and ‘agreed’ with you and the ones who didn’t. The harmless Social Media ‘Like’ suddenly started getting another meaning. Since you ‘liked’ those who agreed with your views, you even started ‘Hating’ those who didn’t buy your views! In short, ‘I don’t agree with you’ became ‘I hate you’!
  • Some of your real life friends who couldn’t agree with you kept quiet, some just ‘emoted’ it, some commented with mild displeasure and some reacted vehemently; And some of them actually started disliking you!
  • Many open facebook groups became war grounds of different viewpoints and private WhatsApp groups of school/college friends became bullying camps!

And the end result – You sulked at work and home, your blood pressure levels raised, your health was at risk and most importantly, you lost some good friends! The funny thing is that, you didn’t even realize your Gods, Religion, Political Party, Modi, Rahul or Khan wouldn’t fetch you real friends or mend broken relationships!

Ever thought what did you actually fight for and what would you lose at the end?

Some Tips for Maintaining the Social Media Decorum

Listed below are not exactly the ultimate Social Media guidelines but some tips that may help you in maintaining your relationships on Social networks.

– Make sure that your posts are relevant and addressed to the right audience – i.e.Your friends, acquaintances, public etc.

– Before submitting each post or comment, double-check your language – not only for grammatical errors but more to see if you are using strong or abusive words.

Avoid forwarding unverified content and twisted facts. These days, the media and the social media campaign houses/publishers of political parties and religions are so damn good at twisting facts and projecting incomplete views.

– If possible, forward the original news than the fabricated versions of the same

Avoid forwarding spreading hate content in public forums (highly debatable topic) even if it may be deemed acceptable to most of your audience. If it hurts even one among hundred, it’s still objectionable!

– Topics such as Politics, Religion etc are best avoided on your School-College-Family groups on Facebook or WhatsApp, unless you have created the group to discuss only those topics

Keep the diversity of your audience in mind even within a single focused target group.

– Before making each comment, make sure that you are being relevant to the original topic.

Avoid following up or replying to your own replies on Indian online news sites. In order to increase traffic to their sites, they will intentionally create controversial topics and sometimes lies. Further, there are so many paid commenters of various religious/political groups working on such sites.

– Use private messaging to deal with those who abuse. You don’t need to go down to their level to win an argument or a point! If he’s your real life friend, you may want to forgive him for a few times, others deserve to be blocked or banned.

Do not stretch each argument beyond two replies. If you can’t convince or win over someone in two or three comments, you can’t win in even 20! In such cases one of them might be wrong too and it could be you! Even if that’s not the case, it’s better to give up as there’s no point in winning on ego grounds.

– There’s no need to click obligatory ‘Likes’ and try to avoid unnecessary threaded comment series such as “Good one -> Thank you -> You’re welcome -> :)” that don’t add any value to anybody.

Avoid following those who spread negativity or hatred even if they are your friends.

– You can still have ‘Social friends’ without following them.

Be ready to ‘unfriend’ acquaintances if the friendship don’t make sense any longer.

Intolerance and the Social Media

So, everyone in India is talking about tolerance and intolerance now. In my opinion, many of the intolerance issues existed in India much before 60 years of Congress rule or 18 months of Modi government. It goes very well back into our history – before independence or for that matter even before the British invaded us, we had our issues. Our ancient ‘Varna’ system, several religions, 1000s of castes and 100s of languages and their numerous dialects were always the perfect recipe for intolerance. It’s just that many of the unfortunate incidents in the past didn’t get any visibility or viral coverage in the old generation media. Now, it’s the exact opposite situation wherein each and every incident – small or big – is spread, participated and reacted by millions of people in no time in the context of the new generation media. Unfortunately, you are being party to the whole commotion, sometimes, without even realizing it. So, who’s to blame here?

If you still don’t understand intolerance, it’s staring at your screen right now! :D

Modi may or may not become the best PM of India! Rahul may or may not quit politics! Khans may produce hits and flops! But lost friendships may not come back to you. Think about it…

Going Antisocial with an Unsmart Phone

9 Sep

(Note: This is the edited version of my recent facebook rant)

It’s more than a month since I went antisocial with my phone! Yes, I decided to break free from the social pressures caused by the phone and this decision was primarily triggered by the misuse of an old smartphone recently provided to my now-teen-son who obviously tried to emulate his parents in terms of the best practices of using a smartphone!

In a sudden attempt to set the right example to him (and prove to the immediate world around as well) I, the self proclaimed role model of my son, uninstalled WhatsApp and Twitter apps in quick succession and then removed Facebook & Google Plus accounts from the phone. This was followed by disabling notifications from all apps except email and text messaging which are like bare necessities for the time being. The phone is now used for basic telephony, text messaging and voluntary reading of news via some apps alone! Of course, there is occasional use of maps, camera, portfolio apps, fitness assistants and web browser – all at will – and hence the phone is not entirely Unsmart yet.

After the initial phase of violent withdrawal symptoms, I must say that the life is coming back to normalcy and very peaceful right now with no urge to stare at the phone all the time or keep swiping on the screen without any particular intent. However, there is both good and bad attached to drastic decisions such as quitting social apps, under-utilizing the phone and turning the clock back by a few years.

The following are some of the positives that I already see by getting rid of social apps and unwanted alerts on my phone.

(+) Suddenly, I am no more hiding from the co-passengers in the lift with the help of the big smartie and even better – I am able to establish eye contacts with them and even smile at them. Wow! I am still social in real life too.

(+) No more weird movement of my index finger along the imaginary unlock pattern of the phone which used to happen earlier even when the phone was not in hand. This symptom was more like those cricket addicted kids doing an imaginary Rahul Dravid style front foot defense with the full-face blade, at an imaginary ball delivered at them. If the phone was in hand, the indication was primarily a sequence of unlocking the phone, swiping the home screens / launching any app, and then locking the phone.

i.e.

while (awake) {
/* for no particular reason */
   thePhone.unlock();
   thePhone.swipe();
   thePhone.lock();
}

(+) Better interaction with the family while at home or away in an eatery, event or outing. The focus changes back to enjoying the moment than capturing and sharing the moment immediately to get likes from the ones who matter less.

(+) There is no more grinning at the phone or romancing with it which used to happen earlier in public places or even while driving. Now, you are more alert without a smart phone!

(+) Not much contribution to those crowd-sourced apps that make money by fooling you into them – Not as many posts, reviews or comments while on the move and such actions, if at all necessary, happens only on the desktop or laptop.

(+) Your Internet bandwidth usage is reduced drastically with some meaningless media/videos (rated ones too) getting out of the way.

(+) Better judgement and ability to distinguish between necessity and nice-to-have things in life. Now, usage of the social media is back in the desktop world alone and hence there’s a fixed time for doing that. Further, no insomnia caused by the connected phone!

(+) Suddenly, the three year old phone seems to perform like a server! Wow, now I don’t need to support China’s economy every three years (every few months for many?) or live with their plastic dumping terrorism.

(+) No more selfies. I was never a selfie fan but I must confess that I might have taken about half a dozen in my whole life. With no immediate sharing possibility, there is no urge to capture even those rare selfies. This may also result in huge savings in the future as there’s no need to procure those Sergei  Bubka like selfie accessories.

Having said all those, I realize that there are some drawbacks as well when you suddenly decide to go against the social flow…

(-) Firstly, you are a friend or relative to someone only as long as you are connected to them socially on these apps. To be frank, I didn’t receive any wish from anybody during this Onam – via call, text message or in person – because I am no more connected and the Onam was celebrated primarily on WhatsApp. Of course, there were many Facebook wishes similar to radio broadcasts which I reciprocated with my ‘likes’. Being antisocial by choice, I coped with it in no time.

(-) You may miss some focused groups that stood for a specific, meaningful purpose. As a matter of fact, two or three WhatsApp groups out of a dozen that I had, before calling it quits, were really useful.

(-) Your decision to reduce mobile usage is effective only if your dear ones and your connected circle take similar actions. It’s sad to see a driver, typically a husband, toiling through the Bangalore traffic while the insensitive ones – typically a wife, teenage kids or colleagues in a pool – in the car contributing heavily to WhatsApp and Facebook traffic through out the journey.

(-) You are perceived uncool and outdated! Your teenager kid might even try to educate you on topics like ‘what is a mobile app?’ or ‘what is meant by software?’. And at times, it is virtually impossible to convince an adventurous youngster friend that some of us – the Software Industry veterans – had actually worked on the first generation mobile applications at a time when many of them were still in their diapers…

and finally…

(-) You don’t get to play an Arnab Goswamy by breaking a news on your favorite WhatsApp group! Now, that’s a tragedy as you lose the chance to play a hero fighting against all injustice in this world. Well, perhaps one can compensate that with some more detailed analysis on desktop social media…

– Yours Truly ‘Antisocial’

(PS: My sincere apologies to those who weren’t informed about quitting my past cool life)

What’s the Difference between Friends and Acquaintances?

9 Dec

I have been having this debate in my head for quite some years now. And as I entered the middle age (of uncertainty and crisis they say) these thoughts actually started bothering me much more than it did in my younger or teen age. The question is:

Do I have a real friend?

I am sure that many of you in my age group and otherwise will have the same question despite living in the modern era of high connectivity and unlimited accessibility channels.

Has the numerous ways meeting people online and offline really resulted in making more friends or just acquaintances? To answer that question, I guess we need to go back to the definition of the term ‘friend’.

Friends vs Acquaintances vs Contacts

Going by the dictionary, a friend (/frend/) is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. The definition already preempts your spouse, siblings, off springs and relatives. So who is a friend then?

Friend

In my opinion a friend is someone with whom you have a relationship called friendship that is based on values such as trust, honesty, mutual respect and genuine concern for each others’ life.

Friendship is not based on how often you are in touch with each other or the frequency of your face to face meetings but how deeply you know about each other. Your true friend is probably far away but he or she has a genuine concern about your life and where and how it is heading. Friends don’t poke their noses into your day to day things but they would still understand your situation – at a broad level – without ever tracking you. Also, friends are not really concerned about what you do in your life (competition and comparison) but they would track how you do certain things (genuine concern) and how can it affect you.

Acquaintance

Probably 99% of the people whom you and I call ‘friends’, in reality, fall into the acquaintances category.
An acquaintance is usually a neighbor, colleague or a travel mate of yours. A person becomes your acquaintance based on mutual interests, hobbies or common believes. In other words, most of the acquaintance comes to your life based on certain vested personal or business interest – that is the fact. These interests could be frequent get-togethers, dining or drinking, playing a game of mutual interest, jogging what have you. Acquaintances in other words are ‘friends of good times’ or need based friends.

Friends (and acquaintances) are categorized as contacts in your mobile phone address book. On the other hand the social networks recognize every acquaintance that you know (or even their friends – or second level friends) as a friend. I think, the technology has mismanaged the situation as they might have derived a lot of terminologies from the CRM (customer relationship management) where everybody that you know is a customer, contact, business partner or prospect.

A friend in need is a friend?

Well, it depends on what is the need. If you are talking about an emergency situation where physical help is needed, probably it’s your good acquaintances and neighbors who will be there for you. But if you are talking about support in a major decision making, tackling a dilemma or valuable guidance in life – that’s when a good friend’s value comes into play.

In short, you need a lot of acquaintances and a couple good friends in life. And they cannot always replace each other.

How do you know that you have a friend or acquaintance?

I think, you can easily determine by their behavior. Friends tend to think alike – same wavelength or frequency or whatever they call it and it’s all based on the values that we talked about earlier. Acquaintances on the other hand seek favors from you all the time – sometimes even monetary favors. They are happy with you as long as they have your support. They are definitely good people to hang out with on dates. You may note that these people are not exactly selfish people but they expect in return all that they give you.

Other difference is that a friendship usually evolves over a period of time where as acquaintances are made pretty easily based on where you are.

Over to you…

Are you with on my definition on friends and acquaintances? Do you think you have a great friend in someone? And do you believe in those additional qualifiers like ‘good friend’, ‘best friend’ etc? Let me know via your comments.

Apartment Fire Fighting & Fire Drill – Video

21 Jun

We recently had a fire drill and fire fighting infrastructure demo in our apartment complex (Celestial Greens, Bangalore). Though this was not our first fire drill ever, this time around we got more community participation and interest from people as they become more and more aware of fire hazards – probably due to the Carlton tower fire memories and our own incident of a Mahindra Scorpio on fire in our basement parking area.

I thought of compiling a video (Yes, I am hooked on to video creation these days as I learn more about editing) of the fire drill. In order to set the context right and for the sake of completeness, I decided to merge all those clips that I had taken along with some graphics and clips that I got from the web. In addition, from the 10 odd fire drills and demos that I have gone through at various work places helped me to add additional fire safety information.

So here’s the video. Please go through it and let me know how you find it.

Apartment Fire Fighting

Though, the above video was specifically made for our apartment community, I believe that it may be useful for most apartment communities in India. Feel free to share this video on social media or by email if you found it good.

(If the embedded video doesn’t work, watch the fire fighting video on my Youtube channel)

RangDe.org – Make your Social Investment Today

26 Jul

RangDe.org is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing Microloans (aka Microcredits) to the needy Indians living in village places to setup their small business thereby improving their lives. It is an amazing concept that works instantly the moment you decide to be part of the same. Just imagine the feeling of helping a poor family from a remote village of Jharkhand or Orissa or Kerala or Manipur or other states. What a satisfying experience!. That’s what RangDe facilitates while protecting your investment – Yes, it’s not like giving away money to Charity but you know the recipient of your little loan and be part of their success story.

What is MicroCredit?

Microcredit refers to the lending of smaller amounts of money at very low interest rates to new small business ventures, typically in the developing countries like India. In our context, the loan amount is usually in the range of Rs.5,000 to 10,000. The microcredit concept was actually popularized by the Grameen Bank – the bank of the poor – that was founded by the Nobel prize laureate and economist Mr. Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh.

Refer to this Grameen Bank page for more details.

The microcredit concept has been spreading across the developing world since mid seventies and this is exactly the context under which RangDe operates.

How RangDe works?

RangDe.org collects the loan amount via smaller social investments (Rs.100 onwards) from Indian citizens (and those who are staying abroad) are provided to your selected borrower from poor village families with the help of NGOs in their respective states. You can search for a borrower from the list and make a small social investment of your choice to that particular borrower via online banking, credit card or cheque. So if a particular borrower needs 7500 rupees to renovate his kinaara shop or buy a goat, there may be several individuals contributing to that cause.

rangde.org

Once the required amount is collected, the NGO passes it over to the borrower. The borrower then has to pay back the loan, typically in one year, to the NGO who deposits the same back in the RangDe account. Basically you get back your social investment typically over one year and also receive a small interest of 2%. You can opt to forgo that for further social causes – that is up to you. Since, RangDe scheme has a repayment rate of almost 100%, you are guaranteed to get back your investment that you can withdraw anytime to your bank account. Sounds amazing right?

The typical interest rate charged to the borrower is 8.5% off which 5% goes to the state level NGO, 2% to you as an investor, 1% to RangeDe.org for their operational costs and 0.5% for contingencies.

The concept is working very well so far since RangDe.org became operations in 2008. For further details you can visit RangDe.org

Who is in need of your Social Investment?

If you want to know the typical borrowers that are listed online on the RangDe microcredit site, check out the following pictures (click to enlarge).


mahesh-tanti-jharkhand-rangde

 

parvaty-chami-kerala-rangde

…and now what prevents you from making a small investment to help a fellow citizen in need?

Visit RangDe.org Now and Pledge your Support!

 

The soul of India lives in its villages – M.K Gandhi