Social Media’s Introduction To The World Of Free

Do you know who was the second man to walk on moon? Here’s his story. "No. But I know the first man to land on moon and some about the mission. Not enough?"... Have you heard of this man gave up fat pay for social work? See this video of his amazing charity work! "Ok.. this video is in circulation for some time now. So, has it inspired you to help the destitute? now – that’s something I’d like to know"... Do you know a shocking private detail about this President’s personal life? "No. Should I? I already know that he is a good statesman. So, does it really matter?"... Sharing a heartwarming video of a father who sacrificed everything for his son. "Dude.. you haven’t met your parents for three years, and if this one hasn’t moved you enough to go see them, then why forward it to me!"... Countless such forwards that are a chicken soup for soul.. always telling us what’s good for us, some others sharing anything and everything that looks and sounds cool – from heritage properties to fastest bullet trains, amazing flyovers to retro tunes and famous quotes to topical humor – all picked up from Google and YouTube!... which you have already seen and heard and are going to do so again for at least ten more times depending how fat your Facebook / WhatsApp friends and meaningful groups’ list is!! And, if you are much loved, you also have the daily wave of those got-you-on-my-mind hellos: “good-morning-with-flowers” and “goodnight-with-more-flowers-and-candles” on a bevy of time bands!

Welcome to the free-world-of-WhatsApp! Everyone loves ‘forwards’ here. It is that thrill of rushing forward the humor, breaking-news, warning, philosophical messages or inflammatory rumors - all in real time! Or then, perhaps, it is affect heuristics - the mental shortcuts people use all the time for social interaction! Whatever’s the reason, it is a pleasure to engage in the digital media culture and keep up the pace with Generation-M (for Media) who are born in the era of web and eternally immersed in digital technologies from the start of their lives.

Do you know that India officially tops the world in forwarding messages?!

It’s wonderful to catch up with loved ones and interact with old friends on social media, learning about life updates and all. But, here’s the funny thing. On your wearable social media, everyone is a ‘friend’. No classmates… (some of whom you may have actually hated and would have even ignored in the past), no colleagues… (even if you thought you always-were and still-are potentially better than some of them)... but Just-Friends. Not putting much thought to any of it, you are almost certainly interacting with them the-most! These days we think, learn, socialize, shape personality, and seek information differently in comparison to how we did before. I, nonetheless, believe that schools and colleges provide a perfect friending environment where you don’t really have to work too hard on your friend situation; and are almost always the place to build close friendships that are forever-lasting. Though that is hardly likely to change, social media has added a new dimension of participatory culture in which it is quite easy to seek friendships online.

Seven years ago, when my greengrocer pinged me on WhatsApp urging me to connect, I was somewhat in a dilemma. He didn’t quite fit in as friendzone material. But then, I thought, neither is my boss! And there, I had crossed the threshold of change.

One thing is eternally true though - friends just kinda happen.

The pandemic times have cooked up a band of new home chefs and home-based enterprises. A roaring fifty percent rise in new sellers, says amazon. Yummy idea and an excellent opportunity for women and budding entrepreneurs, I’ll say. Remember the good-old reliable, free and effective advertising strategy called word-of-mouth (WOM)? That’s what you do whenever you are experimenting with something new and you want to tell your story to everybody. You get in touch with your close family and friends first to announce your unbelievably amazing and life-affirming creations.

Since social-distancing has become the new mantra, that has just been replaced by e-WOM. And, much though we know they took the plunge in such challenging times, admire their enterprising spirit and all, these folks are the latest to join the band of forward maniacs who send out a volley of messages your way again and again without your consent. So then, is e-WOM promotion bad? Certainly Not. Though it is mildly irksome at times.

With the advent of Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram… the free came to party in everyone’s lives.

It rolled the hoi polloi into celebrities. Permitted broadcast of free updates of common lives (opinions, photographs, videos, live chats etc) elevating them to extraordinary lives.. completely blurred the lines between what’s private and what’s public.. set new boundaries for ‘who owns’ and ‘who drives’.. and fostered elusive concepts of proprietary and confidential. Fair to say, they turned users into products.

"If you’re not paying for it; you are the product." - Scott Goodson.

The world of free is rather strange. Getting something free makes us behave a whole lot different than when we pay. Not so long ago, a local corporator distributed sanitizer dispensers to the housing societies as a part of their COVID-prevention-drive. But, there was a catch. The dispensers came with advertisement boards showing corporator’s and the party boss’s faces on it! Now, there was not a single voice of discontent or protest from anyone (who are otherwise famous for being principled). Afterall, society is a private property, and not a public spot for anyone to stick ad posters, na? In consolation, the reason for non-reaction was obvious: the sanitizer dispensers were free! Now, is that the reason why the societies felt strongly obliged to do something for them in return, I wondered. Either ways, I fathom it’s our idealist interdependency, whether or not we wish to be.

I’ve been hearing so much about the evils of social media, so imagine my surprise when I googled to find out that not only is it not-all-doom-and-gloom, but the use of social media actually has mental health benefits. It said, the stronger your social media network, the better and positive your health and well-being! And, why won’t it be? Social media is our thread that links many of our family members and friends together – regardless of their geographic location. You are no more a mystery to them. Share anything you wish to, and feel instantly gratified by their admiration and support. Judge and be judged in the modern world of social media! To me, even the thought of abandoning would cause FOMO (fear of missing out).

As we advance into the year-of-healing: 2021, let us continue our journey of liberally using all the free-social-media-resources available - whenever and however we wish to use for our numerous pursuits. Personally, I love what’s going on when the price of something is lowered to zero!!


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