Of fame and Facebook

The other day, someone I know emailed me to ask for a phone number. The mail was just five words long, but his signature — a quote or one-liner that people often append to their email — turned out to be four times the length. Naturally, my eyes fell on it. It read: “The best way to have your friends get in touch with you is to get famous. For losers, there's always Facebook”.

I was not sure if the lines were thought up by him or were borrowed, but I liked the thought sufficiently enough — considering the amount of time I spend on Facebook instead of trying to be famous — to use it as the status message on my (where else!) Facebook page. Within a minute of my posting the ‘quote', five people had already ‘liked' it. By the next morning, it had earned 25 ‘likes' in all — a rare achievement for my Facebook page.

Why did they all ‘like' it? Obviously because of the inspirational value of the ‘quote'. Nobody wants to be a loser, and everybody wants to get famous. And yet, no one left a comment saying he or she is quitting Facebook after reading those eye-opening lines. That's because it takes great courage — and perhaps determination — to leave Facebook, even though it makes you feel like a loser from time to time.

Each time you look at the albums of a schoolmate, you grit your teeth in envy: “Oh look at him! Posing against the Eiffel Tower! Who could have thought back then! And here I am, rotting in Chennai!” It is a different matter that your friend too must be burning with jealousy when looking at carefully-handpicked pictures uploaded by you. On Facebook, the grass always looks greener on the other side.

Yet, we stay on. Why? Because quitting Facebook would be similar to leaving a party just when the evening is warming up. Won't you rather stay where the action is, than be out in the cold? But then, as the likes of Deepak Chopra will tell you, it is the sheep who stay huddled in a crowd while the lion hunts (for fame, in this case) alone. So yes, Facebook is for losers — at least it makes you feel like a loser, which is again no different from being a loser. But my views stand altered ever since I read a front-page story in the International Herald Tribune about how, last week, Salman Rushdie got livid with Facebook for deactivating his account. Now, Salman Rushdie is a big writer, and Facebook, perhaps to ensure that his account was genuine and not created by an imposter, deactivated it and demanded proof of identity. Facebook then turned him into Ahmed Rushdie, as the writer's name appears on his passport, even though he has never used that name publicly.

Rushdie took Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to task on Twitter: “Where are you hiding, Mark? Come out here and give me back my name!” Within two hours, Rushdie joyously announced to world that he had got back his name, saying: “An identity crisis at my age is no fun”.

Now, Salman Rushdie is certainly not a loser. If anything, he is as famous as a writer can aspire to get. And yet he wants to be on Facebook! Why? That's because the yardstick of popularity has changed rapidly over the last few years. You may not be counted a loser if you have only 20 friends on Facebook, but you are no longer considered a celebrity if you don't have a Facebook account with either 4,839 people on your ‘friends' list or some 19,000 people ‘liking' your page. Moral of the story: The best way to have your friends get in touch with you may be to get famous. But once you get famous, there's only Facebook. That's going to be my new status message.

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Printable version | Oct 4, 2022 12:47:54 am |