There used to be one landline. And then one cell phone. And a select number of friends that you called ‘friends’. Then suddenly telecommunication exploded and expanded in all directions, hitting innocent bystanders like an unexpected hailstorm. It multiplied just like the Pac Men in a video game. Technology grew, turning up in every corner of this maze called life and threatened to devour every innocent little being that was too slow to escape. You may very well be one of those little beings. Not only do you feel your space has been invaded but you also feel that life in the twenty first century description of the fast lane leaves you with very little space to yourself. I can say this for myself: at times I feel my personal space has been trespassed into and I want it cleared.
The Fast & Furious Facebook
Back in the day there was a certain joy in calling friends, wishing them on their birthday, making the effort to visit when they had a baby or got married or got back from a fantastic family vacation. These days everything is conveniently compressed on the Facebook wall. I have to admit that Facebook does have its attraction, mainly staying in touch with friends all over the world and having a window into their lives. But then as with all things technical, this too has spiraled out of control.
Who are the 742 people that I’ve absentmindedly added as friends? They certainly aren’t all my friends! I realize that I have been responding to most Friend Requests as a courtesy to everyone who sends me one, and as a result I have accumulated an uncomfortable number of prying eyes on my page. It gets worse. The Facebook Friend Requests have become the equivalent of the crank calls we used to get in the middle of the night in 1993; some heavily breathing voice would ask to “be my fraand.” Fast-forward two decades to now; how many times have you been on Facebook and chat windows (from unwanted people) ominously pop up. Do you acknowledge or avoid? Work related messages started pinging in the middle of the night, publicity seeking requests, even personal requests from ‘acquaintances’ asking that you drop them a birthday wish on their page. The worse is perhaps the promotional pictures that tag you (along with a hundred others) in images that have nothing to do with you, nudging you for attention in a space where you only want to connect with friends. Over the years I’ve attempted to make my peripheries very clear; Facebook is for friends not work, and certainly not for promotions.
The solution: delete people who may be on your list but have never, ever corresponded with you, keep acquaintances on limited profile, minimize the friend’s list to people who are truly considered friends. Why give every Tom, Dick and Harry access to your private life? Facebook is for friends!
What’s up with the WhatsApp intrusion?
Back when there used to be one landline, professional messages used to come as a courteous phone call – within working hours – or then (with the turn of the century) as a well-constructed email. Along came the smart phone. And with it came Messenger and WhatsApp or whichever other source of communication is ‘in’ these days. Over the years one has found the kids’ class groups, school coordination groups or simply groups of likeminded friends and even professionals very helpful on the WhatsApp messenger. The same rule applies to iMessages, which is great to chat up friends when they are on line. One can bear with the occasional and innocent stray stranger, looking for access and rerouting to the email when access is provided.
What’s unbearable is the incessant bombardment of event invites, the press releases that zap in at midnight, the PROs who feel it’s okay to chat you up in these spaces. Event invites need to go straight to the Gmail inbox; when they intrude personal spaces they need to go straight to the bin. I personally don’t even read them. These messages are like the Public Relations Officer who’ll call at 11:30pm, wondering whether he/she is disturbing you and asking if you’d be free to attend an event two days later.
The solution: the problem here is that anyone with your number can access your chat space unless you block them and/or keep ‘leaving conversations and groups’ when you get sick of them. Just make the message clear.
Love thy selfie, or not!
There’s telecom space invasion and then there’s personal space invasion. Technology has made everyone with a smart phone a wannabe paparazzi activist. And the curse of the twenty first century is the ‘selfie’! Most of us like to keep professional distance; even in personal relationships we rarely like and allow people in our personal space. So the proximity that comes with the selfie culture is at times, offensive. Fashion is infamous for its air kissing (and backstabbing) culture and air kissing was fine as long as it stayed in the air but that’s no longer the case. Selfies mean you have to squeeze into a camera frame with several people that you may or may not know. Selfies with friends one loves, simply because you love your friends and family. But how does one pose with someone who you dislike or don’t even know. A selfie should be a choice not an imposition.
Fawad Khan is selfie king and one admires how calmly he poses with fans. But I can equally appreciate how Adeel Husain, at the press launch of Ho Mann Jahan, very politely told many eager fans that he would happily pose for a picture but not a selfie. He drew the line for himself. We need to make that choice too.
The solution: Learn to politely refuse the selfie when it makes you uncomfortable. It’s not as difficult as it may appear to be.
The writer is Editor, Instep and can be contacted at [email protected] or Twitter @aamnaisani. Facebook messages or WhatsApp notifications are advised against.