Social networking is a bitch. There, I said it.
Let’s admit it. Most of us have a facebook account with around a couple of hundred friends, but we interact with very few of them on a regular basis. The rest are just there to remind us that we have miserable existence; our paychecks are tiny, our lives are grey and our love lives are insipid.
I don’t know about others, but I have people on my “friend’s list” who are constantly vacationing in exotic locations, land high flying jobs with Fortune 500 companies even in the times of recession, attend exclusive fashion galas, are part of peace keeping missions in remote war torn areas and have flings with extra ordinary and interesting people while they are stationed in those remote war torn areas and … wait for it … walk the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival.
You know what is most ironic? The last status update was from a masochist whose sole aim in life was to get married to a heroin addict and get beaten by him every day when she was 19!
I am sure that I lead the most boring, soul less and miserable life among all the people I know where the most exciting part of my day is watching videos of Faisal Raza Abdi and cats playing with babies on YouTube (at least that’s what I used to do when we had YouTube, I now stare at the computer screen and think about those cat and baby videos).
At times I yearn for good old days when we had limited access to the web were not constantly trying to prove to others that we matter. The competition between friends and family may remain gentle but social networking at workplace is brutal.
When I started working for a newspaper, we only had access to office email system and no web browsing on our office computers, before anyone screams how we used to get anything done without the internet, I would say the old fashioned way. We would get off our chairs, step out and gather info on spot to write our stories or we do that via phone if we are too lazy or pressed for time. Fast forward a decade and it is unheard of that a decent workplace would be without high speed internet. What’s more, most allow access to all kinds of social networking websites for their employees.
It’s not that most employers are bursting with goodwill for their employees and want them to have fun posting on wrestle mania’s facebook page or tweeting about the aloo gosht they just had. I have a strong suspicion that the employers are onto something and they want their employees to feel miserable about the better lives of other people, fear impending unemployment and even more misery if they fail to do their jobs. This will keep them in line without using any untoward strategies and ensure productivity.
In my previous workplace, we had a guy who was supposed to assist us with IT related stuff but whenever you would call him, he would not pick up his phone. When you go to his desk, he would be half lying on the chair with thick head phones on and would be watching something, if not that, he would be chatting with his girl friend. One day I wondered aloud why can’t he do that at home, another colleague told me that his wife and two kids (he had a third kid later) would probably cramp his style. I think employers also allow social networking at work to ensure loyalty and uninterrupted employment of the workers who are cheating on their wives.
Another reason why employers allow you access to social networking site is that people think that if you are not on facebook, you must be at least anti social or at worst a batshit crazy person. You need proof of that; the dude who shot people after The Dark Knight Rises viewing in Colorado or the Norway mass murderer Anders Breivik, both did not have facebook profiles.
It is ironic that now both of them have Wikipedia pages and its content cannot be controlled by them. A cousin who wanted to bolster his intellectual credentials by not using any of the social networking websites was told to sign up asap while applying for an FMGC firm in Singapore, they do not hire people without facebook accounts and the HR manager is supposed to have full access to the employees’ facebook pages.
Apart from official prying that HR does on behalf of the employers, colleagues too snoop through social networking websites. Back when I used to work for an international organization, the pay slip for the month of August was the most anticipated pay slip of the year. Out annual increments used to be announced through August pay slip and we would get to know if our increment would be a measly 3 per cent, a respectable 10 per cent or a whopping 18 per cent. We were also advised to not share our financial details with other colleagues but everyone would soon gather all the details. How would they find out; through facebook updates of course. If the status update is gloomy, it’s likely that the person got the derisory 2 per cent raise and if the person is splurging on a sushi dinner with the spouse, chances are that he is the lucky one who got the 18 per cent increase.
Some employers discourage the use of social networking websites during work hours, their reasoning is simple. They don’t want people getting wishful and dreamy eyed looking at the photos taken at those exotic vacations by the facebook friend on company’s time. Personally, I would love that, why because slacking is our national method of whiling the days away and social networking just makes it just easier. I want people to make an effort to be slackers, if they cannot put time and energy at their work, the least they can do is make an effort to slack. Secondly, I would love it if people like that IT guy would be caught by their wives. In any case, with smart phones starting from Rs 9000 and cheapest possible internet rates,
slacking sorry, social networking on your own dime would not you cost you much.
Originally written for monthly news magazine Pique