What happens when social networking sites become a prop? A self-proclaimed addict shares his story

People say I am touched in the head. These are my friends – well, from Facebook. I have more than a thousand of them, most of whom I have met only once offline.

I cannot believe this! In school, I was the guy everyone looked up to. My uniform was decorated with five badges, including that of the head boy and house captain. Then, why would people call me insane?

It all began when I started pouring my heart out on my Facebook wall.

In the beginning, everything was fine. I had signed up for the social networking site to stay connected to my friends. In hindsight, I was yielding to peer pressure: everyone I knew was on FB, so I had to be there too. I made new friends, stayed in touch with the old ones and promoted a part-time business.

I began to see the site as a messenger, a friend and an ally, when my girlfriend broke up with me. I was then a college student. I would start the day checking her profile and write status messages to get her attention. Certain things I wrote there, only she’d understand. My status would read something like – All my happiness is incomplete without you – and she’d text or call me. I did manage to win her again, but the relationship didn’t last long.

By now I’d reached a stage where I’d start my day by checking my FB on phone. My circle had widened. I got involved with forums and this site made me feel good. Even as a student, I took up event management. The site helped me gather teams for events.

I was happy and I wanted to share it with everyone. The pictures I posted suggested that I am the heart of every party. I hoped my ex-girlfriend would see them and know that I didn’t need her anymore.

I was so consumed by what I had created around me that I didn’t realise that my attendance in college was dropping. Due to want of attendance, I repeated semesters with my juniors. FB became a place to vent my anger. I later came to know that people copy-pasted my status messages and made fun of me on their walls. I wanted to retaliate. I was biding my time. I finished college and went on to study MBA. I also completed some post-graduate courses.

I also won awards as a student and I started posting all of these achievements on my wall, with pictures. It was a tight slap on the faces of all the people who thought I was a loser.

I felt good and I used FB to flaunt my achievements and I was glad to see people appreciate me. It made me feel that I was not alone and there was always someone out there with a listening ear.

Then, my life turned upside down. I lost my father. Suddenly. He was fine till the day before he died. I didn’t know how to deal with the loss. People who came to know of it started writing to me on FB. There were so many people who reached out to me – on FB. And I described how I felt when I poured my father’s ashes into the Ganges.

This drew a barrage of criticism. Many concluded that I should be out of mind to have shared something as personal as this. I thought I had a problem, something bordering on a compulsion. I changed my display picture to black and promised to never return to FB.

I broke my promise the next day. I’d log in every day just to check what’s happening with my friends.

I did briefly manage to shrug off the hold FB had on me. I turned 25 and my mother wanted me to get married. She told me of this girl and she happened to be someone I had seen at a social event and I had had a crush on her.

Next thing I knew, I was hitched. I returned to FB months after a few months of hibernation, and posted a picture of our engagement. It received 300 likes.

A few weeks into the engagement, something didn’t feel right. I started follwing her on FB. She’d say she was going to shop with a friend of hers and I would see a picture of them together in his timeline. She was obviously not tagged. I began to go through the profiles of her close friends to see if she was hiding something from me.

There would be a fight whenever she uploaded a picture of some other boy with her. The display picture would not have me, but some friend she had met a few months before she met me. She’d tell me one thing and her Facebook page would suggest the opposite. Our fights became nastier and I called it off. This time, there were no rash of emotional messages on FB.

I simply blocked her and her family from my list.

But the truth was: I had genuinely fallen in love with her and I wanted to know how she was doing.

So, I created another account to check on her and all the people I had unfriended and blocked.

I call it my alter ego.