I wrote this for The Times of India:
A friend of mine recently lied. He was a good liar, by no means an artist as some others I know and certainly not as bad and frequent as I am, but solid. He had slipped up previously—spotted by someone, couldn’t repeat a welltold fabrication, was caught out by those he lied about, coming in contact with those he lied to. In all scenarios, his deceit, however redhanded, was speculation, with at least a 12% benefit of doubt to him. This was until Facebook happened.His lie was opting out of a dinner with an extremely boring person, with the excuse of severe flu. He thought all was sorted, until the extremely boring person saw a Facebook photograph of his posted the next day, wildly enjoying himself at the time of their appointment, with the title, “Crazy Night Last Night”. A date and time on the photo sealed his fate.A lot has been said about online social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. It’s generally believed that these have changed the world forever.First-person accounts from inside hostage sites during 26/11, the sole communication tools during the recent Iranian revolution, plus the speed of news delivery, the ability to reach anyone, anytime, anywhere…examples of its influence are endless. A recent trend in Sweden involves people who aren’t good at confrontation, informing their spouses of divorce by changing their Facebook status from married to single.A world where everyone with internet access can be—and is—online all the time, informing everyone else, also goes to show how banal and pointless our lives really are. But it’s inevitably more interesting when you know someone else is interested. Tom Stoppard had once said that the only thing that makes life worth living is “knowing that someone is watching”. Facebook “status”, the most popular tool, also the philosophy behind Twitter, asks for an answer to the question, what are you doing right now? Last week, Asha, an acquaintance wrote, “Just Woke Up”. It was early morning, thereby a normal act. Immediately, 20 of her friends commented with a thumbs up, saying they liked that update. One even added, without irony, “Good”.The BBC recently did a comedy sketch where a person shows up at another’s doorstep and does some of the things one would do on Facebook, to show how we write completely ridiculous things online that we never would in real life. If someone you’d met just once, knocked on your door and asked to be your friend, then poked you and threw a virtual sheep at you or asked you to fill out a film compatibility quiz or participate in a game where you won fake beers, you’d call the police. Yet, we’d do this stuff for hours on Facebook or read Twitter updates about fart jokes, without any regard for sanity.All of this is fun enough if one wasn’t altering something fundamental about humanity, which Google, Twitter and Facebook are. The world these people are creating is a transparent perfect one where no one would lie and everyone would know everyone’s whereabouts and no one would ever go away or come from anywhere. Disappearing would disappear. Yet as failed philosophies built on perfect classless societies like Marxism have shown, there’s something deceitful, untrustworthy, jealous, greedy and wrong in all of us, but it is also what makes us most human. And fascinating.As a friend remarked, “The last scene of Casablanca would mean nothing in today’s world. When Bogart and Bergman part forever, you won’t cry because you know they can always Tweet”.