Giving Facebook a meaningful facelift

It was a shared picture on Facebook that touched my heart. A group of dishevelled slum kids tucking into delicacies at a fancy restaurant in a metro. That was a treat given by a young man who had got his first salary from a corporate job. Most of us would have taken our close friends or family out, but this youngster decided to be different and chose to have a bunch of poor children eat at a place they have all along only seen hungrily from across the street through the glass walls. And no, the mainstream media didn’t tell me about this. The social media did.

Last week, I was at a women’s summit in the city. Guess how it was inaugurated? No lighting of lamp or keynote speech but a short demo of the Israeli martial art Krav Maga by instructor Sreeram who, after quitting a top software job, has trained close to 30,000 women in self-defence. Krav Maga Sreeram’s Facebook account is replete with stories of his ‘Post Corporate Social Responsibility’. Aside of information on his training modules, it has posts on how to get wind of a fraudster, the sections in criminal law that could be attracted while defending yourself and so on.

Sreeram is not alone. Helen Chitra’s Facebook account has posts such as ‘An abandoned white spitz running helter skelter at Thelsapet and a lab puppy with a collar and no owner at Aiyankuttipalayam bus stop’, show the love for animals this young woman now based in Puducherry has.

On a similar boat is Sudha Ramalingam, whose timeline is plastered by appeals for help for the construction of Anbagam — a home for the needy at Thirukandalam under the banner of her Manonmani Trust.

Did you know that the present Parliament sat for just one-third the hours of the first three Houses? This is one of the many nuggets that emerge from a social media campaign of AskHow India — an initiative to improve the quality of debate in India. The think tank comprising alumni from IITs and IIMs offers valuable information to voters on a wide gamut of subjects such as the economy, corruption, the functioning of our elected representatives, of the judiciary and measures to improve safety of women.

These are people who have no axe to grind. These are not professional social workers but busy experts from various walks of life, for whom Facebook is much more than a tool for casual interface or trumpeting achievements or the regular ‘feather my nest’ professional networking. It’s the Power of One on the social media that is such a redeeming feature, away from the overflowing vitriol. The ‘not for the faint-hearted’ industry of hate may not be tolerant enough of the other view, but its other face is not to be ignored. Much as I’ve come down hard on trolls and cyber hawks on Twitter, I must acknowledge the presence of good shepherds on the social media who are instrumental in making common cause from what could well have been many a lost cause. Aren’t the hands that type out such posts holier than the lips that pray?


Invitations on FacebookApril 11, 2014