It was a battle more one-sided than Rambo against the entire Afghan army when lesser mortals took on social media giants

Times Square was fast filling up. The private detectives of the world were up in arms. As they looked to fill the place up, they realised that it was already occupied by a zillion news channels. “Covering our protests?” they asked curiously. “No way, we are also protesting,” claimed the channels. “Ever since Facebook became the most preferred source of news, no one’s watching us.”

“It’s really frustrating to struggle hard and come up with ‘breaking news’, only to realize that 600 million people already know about it, have liked it and have forwarded it to the remaining 600 million Facebook users,” grumbled a grizzled channel veteran. “That’s right,” spoke up the bespectacled gentleman to his right. “Why is a calamity of this magnitude going unheard? The nation wants to know.”

“But how did they manage that?” asked a detective. “Because,” an otherwise aggressive news anchor sobbed, “research has revealed that people just can’t help being addicted to Facebook. Apparently it’s hardwired into their brain, somewhere in the nucleus accumbens — that’s the part of the brain that handles the key portfolios of rewards and ego massage. So some scientists subjected a user’s brain to functional magnetic resonance imaging and guess what they found? Facebook’s ‘like’ symbol was embedded all over his brain.” “Seriously?” asked the sleuth. The anchor sighed. “Not quite, but almost.”

“And why are you guys protesting?” asked the news anchor to the investigators. “Apparently, a person’s Twitter trail reveals his locations — each time he sends a tweet, his whereabouts are also revealed,” said a private eye. “It’s not just that,” wailed another detective, “the user’s time zone, his language and even the street that he’s walking through can be identified based on his tweets. In other words, we’re history.”

Another news anchor specialising in covering protests dismissed the complaint. “There are rumours that even games like Angry Birds and other apps are being used to glean crucial information on a host of topics, from location to personal preferences of the user. It’s elementary to tap into the settings of a phone and once that’s done, everything from its browsing history and downloads, to the services opted for and other details can be unearthed. So why are you cribbing about Twitter?”

“But they are giving Facebook a run for their money when it comes to being the most sought-after messaging service for news on mobile devices,” pleaded a detective. “Can’t they help us?” The guys at Twitter were mighty pleased with that. “Don’t worry,” they assured the detectives, “starting today, lurkers and creepy followers can all be blocked from viewing your posts. So, not everyone will be privy to the information about users.” With that, Twitter brought back the blocking feature to pacify the detectives, just hours after they had removed it.

Seeing this, the news channels were encouraged. “If people continue to catch up on news from Faceook, what’ll happen to us? Just do something,” they told Mark from Facebook. “No way,” he replied. “In that case, we will be forced to retaliate,” warned the news channels. “We have unearthed a new app, appropriately titled the ‘Facebook Time Machine’.”

“And what does it do?” Mark yawned. “It helps calculate the time one has spent on Facebook ever since one registered, and reveals numbers right down to the last minute. It zips through a user’s account and, based on his updates and posts, will tell him how much time he has wasted on social media when he was supposed to be busy at work.”

Can you imagine what will happen if his boss gets to see it? The Facebook user’s life will be ‘all like, no hike’ from thereon. But we don’t want things to come to this. So why don’t you have some sympathy for us and do something about it? “That can be done at the touch of a button,” Mark smiled.

And that was how Facebook began developing a ‘sympathise’ button.

sureshl.india@gmail.com