Facebook: From Inception to Honeymoon

Unfortunate victims of globalization that we all are, it has made us part ways, relocate and consequently misplace our bonds that we nurtured at some point of time in our lives. Staying in touch with the silver age ones, reconnecting with the golden ones and building brand new sparkling ones gave birth to a few web-based social communication mediums about less than a decade back.  These networking portals enabled people establish “connections” with others, not in a professional setting like LinkedIn, but strictly on a personal level – where a membership into the social system would enable us to find others with the end result to maybe regain a once but forgotten golden bond.

Social networks were gaining their well deserved attention and then came a time around seven years back, when I was pestered by my friends to join yet another social media site – Facebook – a Harvard university bi-product. How I was dreading dislodging myself from my cozy little world that I had created in Google’s Orkut and debuting in a brand new social cosmos. Sadly, Orkut never seemed to gain any momentum apart from India and Brazil (but who was I interacting with anyway?) My initial notion of Facebook was that it was primarily designed for college going kids and I was technically and unfortunately too old for it. But social pressure makes one succumb to whims of others, and I hesitantly hooked myself into it. The transaction was a bit difficult and I clearly remember saying that I find it cumbersome to use! Now I laugh at myself as I remember my confused state – that too coming from a Masters in Computer Sciences. Well, when was the new ever easy to adapt to?

The way Facebook infected the world is another story all together. Old and young, village and city, remote countries and developed: it knocked on everyone’s door; it touched everyone’s heart. The world got connected, started feeling even smaller. I reestablished my old-but-gold contacts, reconnected with relations that were a no-no otherwise. I built brand new and ever-lasting social and real friendships. Facebook totally won over my heart!

There was some initial reluctance in sharing personal information and photographs and I clearly remember how we all were apprehensive in putting our picture even as the profile pic. Gradually we all overcame the unwillingness as a society and embraced the unfamiliar uneasy public social life.

Comfort and ease settled in and made us genuinely accustomed to our newfangled lifestyle on Facebook. We were literally living Facebook in the moment. Every happy detail of our personal lives was being readily logged and shared to the vast kingdom of followers we had assembled. Traveling through it became an exercise in virtual reality. We got to visit places that we had either just dreamed of or had never ever thought about. Facebook was doing a better job selling tourism than a Lonely Planet or Costco Travels could ever imagine.

Buying a brand new wardrobe every so often, and then photographing oneself in it became a dire necessity as the photo shoot would eventually be shared. How could we “post” without the “pose”? All of us regular folk became celebrities and our photo shoots were no less than a session for Vogue. The ordinaries starting looking extra-ordinary, the already beautiful became the prettiest damsels in town. Only the geeks were left behind – but they inherited the world anyway.

The notion of expressing ourselves and consequently being noticed by others was novel, exciting, and like a drug. The explosion of mobile devices all over the world propelled Facebook’s exponential growth further. The ease of accessing it anytime, anywhere made Facebook a wondrous miracle better than sliced bread.

Facebook gave us all a unified mission, a sole purpose, a deep narcissistic desire  to login into our computer systems first thing every day. The red-flashing-notification-number on messages or comments started giving us an ecstatic kick. A new message flashing was far more exciting than any email we had ever received. Pouring comments and Likes on posts were way more ego boosting than any honest verbal appraisal.

Our phones in our hands and our Facebook app on our phone we ventured into the real world donning virtual rose (or blue) colored glasses. Who needed to talk to the person right next to them when we had our friends waiting for us on the other side of the under-sea link. Life suddenly became so satisfyingly purposeful. Facebook had created a euphoric la-la land for a billion of us around the world.

Animal Farming – have they no hearts?

On our way back from Los Angeles, driving on the interstate I-5, arguably the dullest interstate I have ever seen, we always have to change the car’s air circulation mode to stop the outside air from coming in whenever we pass this humungous herd of beef cattle which is located right next to the freeway near Kettleman City, known as the Harris Ranch.

I guess everyone who has driven on I-5 simply cannot miss this “pleasant scene”. And every time I have passed these pitiful cows, it simply fills me with utter grief and sorrow. There are typically a hundred thousand cattle at this lot, clogged right next to each other,  with their knees and below covered in their own feces, in a tiny patch of land, standing there, be it rain or shine, with hardly any shelter to protect them. This “farming” for beef makes me ponder why is it that people are ready to eat regardless of the suffering?

The Harris Ranch site is a proof of cruelty to animals and also highlights that meat eating in this modern world is such a pedestrian delight. Years ago, back in India, eating non-vegeterian dishes was considered a supreme delicacy and, to be honest, a very expensive affair. I still remember so vividly how happy I was when chicken curry would be cooked in our house – the whole experience was such a gala affair. My brother and I would not be able to contain our excitement as we too were equally involved in the process of its making. My mother does not eat nor even touch chicken but was generous enough to make it, and she left no stones unturned making it with the utmost perfection! This “glorious” event used to happen probably twice a year – much to my brother’s and my dismay. The reason being the expense of the meat.

On the contrary, here in the U.S., chicken and cauliflower are sold at the same price per pound. How could the life of a living animal, a life aware of all the five senses in its body,  a life that goes through birth, youth, happiness, pain and all the emotions, cost the same as a vegetable? This is only possible when animals are raised and dumped as a bag of potatoes, and finally when the animals are delectably “ripe” they are mercilessly butchered (many are electrically stunned before being killed so that they don’t realize their oncoming fate). This assembly-line kind of animal farming has consequently brought down the cost of meat so drastically that eating a living being has become mundane. This is definitely not an answer to feed a population!

The animal in such farms lives its entire lifetime in extreme chaos, it is deprived of all the basic decencies of life, and simply waits mindlessly for its turn, one final day. We simply cannot exploit their innocence and naivety, though it gives me some solace knowing that these animals are not intelligent enough to ever realize it.

This cruel and inhumane way of animal farming has to be stopped. Farming sites have to provide animals their basic rights – freedom of movement, hygiene and should be naturally fed. They cannot be medically or electrically stunned or given harmful steroids to artificially and rapidly gain weight that birds can’t even fly. Meat prices would sky rocket and eating a beef burger will rightfully be a delicacy the same way eating Beluga Caviar is, hunt it or farm it, but the produce is rare.

I am not a proponent of be-a-vegetarian, but going to Safeway and spending more money on capsicum and less on a pound of chicken does leave me baffled and eventually saddened.