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Facebook: Observations

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I state a fact not stated enough when i say that Facebook has brought about and is continuing to bring about a revolution.A world-changing revolution that marks a turning point in the history of human progress.It’s effects will be studied by sociologists and psychologists decades from now.I daresay the psychologists have already got to work.Now, some would say that largely, Facebook has merely compounded the societal effects and changes set in motion by the advent of the internet and the World Wide Web two decades ago.I am inclined to agree but only to an extent.The genius of Facebook is how it has tapped into the vast potential of the internet.It is simply, to my mind, the greatest application of the Internet hitherto!Note that I am not commenting here on whether the changes brought about by it are good or bad, but on the magnitude of those changes.Now, sure, you may argue that the most groundbreaking use of the web is as an information resource.To that I would ask you,”Aren’t books still in print?”If the web is nowhere near rivaling  books as a tool of learning, then this application of the web is nowhere near as sweeping in it’s reach as the ongoing “social web” revolution, of which Facebook has been the chief architect.

And that finally brings us to the crux – Facebook as the big daddy of all forums.Now, internet discussion forums are not new, obviously – They have been around in one form or the other since the early Usenet networks created in 1980.What is new of course, is the reach of Facebook and the transparency of Facebook.Classical forums have an air of obscurity about them, with their multitudinous anonymous profiles and gif images.They have not been able to assimilate all ( or even close to representative) sections of society, having been restricted to a highly closeted, internet-savvy community of programmers, geeks, and gamers.

Facebook on the other hand is bringing out highly localised ideas and opinions from, as the title of this article says, fringe elements in society.You have pages like India against congress(73,000 likes),The Bharat Swabhiman Movement (9000 likes),which are basically people pursuing a hindu fundamentalist agenda, to the point that there are people congratulating each other on abusing Mahatma Gandhi and calling Nathuram Godse a hero for all hindus.Also widely seen is a sort of reverse-racism against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for having italian blood, propping up Hindu figureheads like Baba Ramdev as national leaders.Needless to say all this involves no actual thought or discussion – it’s mere brainwashing and herd-mentality.The most obvious reason for the growing number of people joining such hard-line causes is the percieved protection offered by the platform being the internet.Naturally people are less likely to mince words or ham about online, amidst so many “like-minded” others.Thus such pages do give a more accurate idea about actual sentiments of large numbers of the people.It is easy to relegate them to the term “Fringe elements” like I just did, but I am apprehensive that such hate feelings maybe present in a much greater section of the people, they just haven’t surfaced yet.I fear that, piggybacking on the anti-corruption euphoria, such fundamentalist forces may seek to alter the secular fabric of our country.I see it as a rise of conservatism in the Indian middle classes.Nowhere is this indicated better than on social networks and social web-enabled plugins which have now become common on most major news sites.

Another product of the Facebook revolution in India is the rise of Pop-Activism, as I like to call it.Social activism has been reduced to clicking the share button.The most common form nowadays is a photo with an attached write-up, plus a message to “LIKE AND SHARE!SPREAD IT LIKE WILDFIRE”.The most ridiculous are those with a picture of a little child saying “For every share, this disabled girl will recieve 1 paisa which will go to her treatment”.In the comments everyone participates in an orgy of sanctimony.Nice, isn’t it?Just one click and you immediately feel better.

Isn’t it a marvel how well Facebook lends itself to the widely differing social and cultural scenarios in different nations across the world.I mean, imagine the differences between society in the west and in the subcontinent!To conclude here, I think Facebook trends are definitely related to how people are actually feeling.Now that one in every five people is on Facebook, maybe the time is not far when Facebook will contain a record of the lives of each and evry person in the world.

Does that worry you?

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