30.06.2019 is World Social Media Day and I think it’s quite befitting that I talk about it today. I’ve lived a nomad’s life for the better part of my existence on this planet. Just when I would ease into familiarity, it would be time to move again. So much so, that after 3-4 years of staying in one place, I would start getting a niggling feeling and soon enough, it would be time to pack our bags.

It was downright frustrating and I retaliated with age appropriate responses. My parents put up with my temper outbursts and sulking but they could never really understand my loss. I’m a people’s person, I like to be surrounded with familiar faces but destiny would thwart my plans, every single time.

And this was the 1980s-90s when having a landline was a big deal and interstate calling was an adventure. So, effectively I was in a make friends-leave them-meet new ones- repeat cycle throughout my childhood.

But then social media happened. I tentatively explored Orkut (… remember it? and the ones who don’t… then I’m just too old for you). Orkut helped me find my long-lost friends and eventually we pulled off a mini reunion, 13 years after school had ended.

Orkut gave way to its smarter cousin Facebook and after that there’s been no looking back for me. I owe a lot to social media. It has helped me find my old friends back, make new ones and basically kept me sane through the ups and downs that life has thrown at me.

When I moved to a new country, it was social media that helped me get in touch with strangers from across the world. Some of these are now friends while there are many others I still haven’t met. If it wasn’t for them, I would have been utterly lost.

I found my voice and an audience for it, through these networking sites. That for me has been the greatest gift of all. I have met so many like-minded people online in the past two years, many of whom qualify to be friends now.  In the real world, it would have been a logistical impossibility considering the geographical zones.

I know there are a lot of perils that come with over indulgence. But that’s the case with most stuff. Too much of anything is bad. 

Social media is here to stay, it ain’t going anywhere soon. We can’t wish it away. If anything, its impact on our lives is just going to increase. So, trashing it as useless would not work. Social media is making inroads in our lives in unprecedented ways. We can’t live like islands.

Learn the ropes, explore and experiment (this of course comes with the age disclaimer). Make your own equation with it.

It reminds me of the essay we used to write as kids, on science. The essay would always end with ‘science is a good servant but a bad master’. How we use media depends on us. Embrace it as a friend rather approaching it warily as an enemy.

-Dr. Shivani Salil

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