A theory on how Facebook offers you the perfect foundation to build your social fiefdom

Since time immemorial, man has depended on books to straighten out key aspects that defined his personality – from rolled-up posters of Claudia Schiffer to curled-up currency notes. Books, when used appropriately, have been quite effective in straightening out kinks of character – that was how the phrase ‘to throw the book at someone' originated. The other less famous, but equally effective way of building character has been to open a book and read it.

Books that guided man on the most important aspects of life have been around for ages. Approximately 2300 years ago, Kautilya wrote “Arthashastra,” a tome that advised the king on how he should manage the state, the economy and his army. Almost 1800 years later came “The Prince” by Machiavelli, a treatise on governance, power and human nature.

Subsequently, rampant deforestation and global warming reared their ugly heads, and with the noble intention of saving the earth and its trees, man gave up reading. But he still needed guidance on how to go about life. That was when technology came to the rescue. And it turned out that the only ‘book' that 900 million people spent hours on, day after day, was Facebook, a fascinating guide on how to win friends, influence people, like comments, share photos and drive the boss and spouse mad at work and at home respectively. More importantly, it captured the essence of both “Arthashastra” and “The Prince,” in one web page.

In “Arthashastra,” Kautilya elaborates on the seven pillars of an organisation as ‘the king, the minister, the country, the fortified city, the treasury, the army and the ally'. Similarly, Facebook lists seven pillars that are crucial for survival on a social network. Naturally, you are the king of your domain, your close friends are your trusted ministers, their friends (especially the good-looking ones) are your allies, the groups you're a part of form your country – think of your voyeuristic wandering to others' pages as illegal immigration; the apps become your fortified city – you wouldn't want your personal information to go beyond the walls, your comments and snaps are your treasury that you desperately guard against ever-changing privacy settings, and the Like button is your army, with which you can change the destiny of a post.

In “The Prince,” Machiavelli Niccolo talks about human nature and self-obsession, with every action fuelled by the ‘what's in it for me?' syndrome. You don't have to look beyond one's Facebook page for proof of this. Machiavelli also believed that people are mainly concerned with their property and honor, a fact that's evident from the way they spend hours huddled over Farmville.

There are chapters in “The Prince” that makes you wonder if they've been written for the Facebook generation. For instance, Chapter XVI, ‘Concerning Liberality And Meanness‘, throws broad hints on how naughty your posts can get. Chapter XIX, ‘That One Should Avoid Being Despised And Hated' tells you why the Hate button has never been introduced in Facebook. Chapter XXIII, ‘How Flatterers Should Be Avoided' alludes to why fawning remarks to your profile pictures should never be taken seriously.

With “Arthashastra” being lost for centuries and “The Prince” being banned, the hidden principles of Facebook had to be guarded from oblivion, internet censorship and more importantly, from Google's new products. Facebook had to live on forever – and that was why Timeline came into being.

Facebook would now be the future – and “Arthashastra” and “The Prince,” history.



The life of a boyDecember 14, 2012