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When Anna did us apart
Online disagreements over politics can escalate into offline rifts between old friends.
Monty used to be one of my closest friends. Back in school, we went for our IIT coaching classes together. We ended up going to the same engineering college. We had crushes on the same girls, though none of us managed to find a girlfriend through four years of college. I danced in his baraat, and he danced in mine. I 'liked' each one of the pictures he would upload daily from Kerala while still on his honeymoon. I started playing Farmville just because he wanted an extra neighbour to expand his farm. I accepted all of his app requests including Social Poker, Glassdoor and Birthday Calendar, even though I don't use any of them.
Not anymore. It's all over. Monty is no more my Facebook friend. He has also blocked me on Twitter, Gtalk and Skype, so now I have no way of talking to him. Phones? Who uses phones in the age of social media? Come on now.
All because Monty posted a news item related to Arvind Kejriwal's recent fight against the government saying, 'THIS MAN WILL SAVE THE WORLD!!!! ', and I commented 'LOL! Good one. ' The next thing I know, my comment was deleted and when I tried opening Monty's profile page, the 'Add Friend' button was enabled. He had unfriended me.
I know Monty is a bit extreme about the whole 'I am Anna' affair and has liked all pages that show up in the search result for Anna, including the one for that pretty Russian tennis player, but how conveniently he forgot that I was the only one who wished him happy birthday last year? Yes, nobody else cared enough to wish him. I am sure any self-respecting person would commit suicide if a birthday went past without a single greeting on Facebook. In fact, I think I read somewhere that they are contemplating a new feature where such people would get free counselling sessions from the 'We Care' suicide helpline. I saved your life Monty, but never mind.
Monty wasn't the first one though. Last week another friend wasn't happy after I posted a news item saying that NaMo would easily win the next elections if he wanted. He commented on my post calling me a right-wing fanatic and said that I needed to be ashamed of myself and be a bit more secular. This caught me unawares and made me feel guilty about the lapse in judgement, so I thought of compensating by posting a joke against the BJP, but then I lost 10 followers and got an email offer to break ALL of my legs and dump me in the Yamuna. One of these guys who unfollowed me used to literally wear my VIP Frenchie underwear back when we shared a hostel room. If Facebook had a fatwa feature, I'd surely have a few dozen on my name by now. So much for freedom of speech.
There's one more. A snide remark about Mamata didi, whom I adore by the way, led to two of my Bengali friends getting into a fight with each other. On my wall. After an intense 20-minute argument and a comment thread that hit a half-century, they finally stopped fighting and proceeded to amicably unfriend each other. And me. I lost count of what they were saying halfway, when they started hurling what sounded like Bengali abuses at each other.
This is so complicated, man. I feel like Sania Mirza on the eve of an India-Pakistan cricket match. Confused.
Not to give up so easily, I thought I'd make it generic and posted a comment saying that all politicians are criminals and should be sent to jail. While I was hoping this would go viral and get at least 20 likes, I was soon to find out that a friend of mine was a closet democracy activist when he went ballistic on me and gave me a lecture on democratic principles and the importance of not making such stupid statements on Facebook, a platform apparently meant for more meaningful, serious discourse.
I am beginning to miss the days before Facebook. I used to call up friends and talk to them. Any disagreements were settled with a punch in the face, creative names to each other's mother and sister, and a patch-up the next day over a game of cricket. Friendships weren't dependant on the Internet, and your Facebook friend count didn't determine your right to exist on the planet.
Maybe from now onwards, I'll just avoid sharing any opinion and use Facebook for more important things like announce what I had for breakfast, post pictures of my baby boy sitting on the potty or share pictures of miracles such as Sai Baba's face appearing on the north face of Mount Everest, with a note asking my friends to share it within 10 minutes for immediate salary hikes and double promotions.
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