Social media can be used to keep people close, yet at an arm’s length

It may seem like an oxymoron but transparency can result in privacy. And India's real-life hero, Yuvraj Singh, knows that better than anyone else. It's a different matter that the Indian cricketer successfully battled cancer in a hospital abroad. Even if he had been treated in India, Yuvi may just have obviated the need for intrusive reportage. And that's thanks to his personal PR manager called twitter. All that news organisations had to do was follow his tweets, which were perfect news updates on his progress, his state of mind, his support, (including an inspiring message from his very own “real-life hero” Lance Armstrong) and his will to bounce back. The 'tweet while you're treated' policy was also a great way to connect with his twelve-and-a-half lakh followers. The sheer positive energy that flowed and came right back from well wishers and fans must have been quite therapeutic.

@Yuvstrong12 is a classic example of how social media, if used fairly and innovatively, can have a salutary effect on nosey-parker reporters who invite themselves into hospitals and thrust microphones before critically injured patients with that gem of a cliche: “How do you feel?” We've seen that in the aftermath of bomb blasts, earthquakes, the tsunami, rail accidents, air crashes and stampedes. Or for that matter the paparazzi outside maternity hospitals whenever a celebrity delivers a baby. Before my readers get thoughts of “look who is talking”, may I plead 'Not Guilty'? Broad-brushing is always a temptation.

Even what may be a routine medical checkup or post operative care, turns into a media event. Amitabh Bachchan, better known for his candid (rather than candied) tweets, got a taste of the hyperactive media baying for news yet again, prompting this tweet: “Dearest tv media and vans outside my home, please do not stress and work so hard. Its nothing, just another visit to my doctor!!”. Perhaps the best way to disperse journalists is to tweet a little information. At one level, it’s the champagne bottle theory playing out in full fizz — the more you suppress information, the greater is the urge to unravel it. The strategy will hopefully sound the death knell of a brand of meaningless, insensitive journalism. And don’t be surprised if celebrity management metamorphoses into social-media management.

Like twitter, Facebook also allows you to display transparency and have your privacy too. The art of diplomacy, a wag once quipped, is to “remember a woman’s birthday, never her age!.” You don’t need to publicise your age here, unless you choose to flaunt your grey eminence. Privacy settings include the option to disable wall posts from friends or the public. There is a marked preference for just direct messages. The birthday tracker remains a favourite tool.

Reasonably popular users could get upto five hundred wishes on their birthdays. When people, prompted by Facebook, of course, take the trouble to post a wish, a real turn off would be a round-robin-style, generic 'Thank You, All' reply; almost reflecting an overnight celebrity status. For those who construe individual replies as a form of birthday bumps, Facebook could consider adding a 'Thank You' icon next to the 'Like' button. So if you have wishes galore, you can do the ‘Acknowledgement Due’ honours at the speed of, well, five hundred expressions of gratitude in a little over eight minutes. Please redo the math. That has always been my nemesis.