Facebook celebrated its tenthanniversary on February 4, 2014. SUDHISH KAMATH explains how the social networking site has transformedthe way we connect with people

Imagine Jesse and Celine, after spending a whole night in Vienna, 18 years ago, had just decided to add each other on Facebook. They wouldn’t have had to wait for nine years to catch up in Paris.

Or if Harry who believed that men and women can’t be friends, had added Sally on Facebook. Maybe he wouldn’t have had to wait for 10 years for the rest of his life to start as soon as possible.

In 10 years, Facebook has made all these romances so dated. Simply because there are no more goodbyes. Au Revoir is just a friend request away.

The Internet, as we know it, was just getting out of its teens when young Mark Zuckerberg and friends developed The Facebook and somewhere else, Orkut Buyukokkten created Orkut, purely out of the need to network with others in their social circle. It was the geek’s dream come true — to make friends without getting out of home. To meet girls even if they were social misfits. Soon, it became more than just that.

Facebook soon beat Orkut in the popularity contest and became the place for young people around the world to hang out. While many joined to make friends, some to keep in touch with people they already knew, the rest joined purely because of FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out.

It didn’t sound too bad for guys. It was a friend request, not a girlfriend request (though many girls still believe that every guy who adds them on Facebook is looking for a date). The privacy features gave the girls the option to not get stalked, if they didn’t want to. Facebook lets you share only how much you want to. With only those who you want to share it.

Larger role

Though Facebook started off to fulfil a very basic need of people to connect to other people, with time its role and purpose in our lives soon became larger and bigger.

Because of two huge reasons.

One, it changed the epicentre of the world to the self. To the individual. You were not just a part of the universe, not just stardust. You chose your universe; you only let people you want in it. You decide to let them stay and be a part of that world and life you want to share with them. The big moments, the epiphanies, the disappointments, the rants, the celebrations, the jokes or the issues you felt strongly about were now just an update away. We saw kids of our friends grow up, as baby pictures slowly turned into photos of young boys and girls right in front of our eyes. We knew who got married, who was dating who and who broke up (as pictures of couples would suddenly disappear from the album). Basically, everything we cared to know and find out was a click away.

Two, it answered the complex, existential question — WHO ARE YOU? — rather simply and honestly. This is probably one of those unintended outcomes.

Though you might initially only share what you want to and project what you want to, you soon see people around you share deep, personal stories and thoughts. Slowly, you feel the need to express too. After all, this is your world. It has everyone you want in it. And what is the point of it if you can’t share your feelings with your world!

Before we knew it, people became transparent. We could see people having bad days, going through breakups, dealing with loss, express their deepest fears... What you didn't know is that you were doing it too, consciously or otherwise.

Want to know who you are? Read your updates over the years, see your photos, see what people Like about you and what they care for.

Just like reality TV peels the mask of people to reveal who they really are by desensitising them to the camera watching them, Facebook unmasks the real you... ONLY if you let it, of course.

You can always switch off, deactivate your account or not post anything but then, that tells you something as well.

It is the equivalent of sitting at home and sulking. Or your time out from the world. Holiday or meditation. The world may not know why you are away from Facebook but you do. And you see who you really are.

Lookback video

Saw the Lookback video that Facebook gifted you on its tenth anniversary this week? It tells you how much you have shared from what was really important to you. It makes you wish you had updated a lot more.

Not for anyone else but because you want to know who you were. What kind of life you lived. What kind of friends you have. What kind of people you let into it.

As we wrestle with ourselves on how much we want to share with the world and how many people we want in it, we could remind ourselves that life becomes larger when we share it with people we love. And the more number of people in it, the more the love.

Met an interesting stranger in real life and see a Friend request waiting? Go on, give it a shot.

This might be — as the closing lines of another classic movie goes — the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thanks for the love, Facebook.

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