An epidemic called Facebook

and its main victim — human relationships.

Seven years ago, on my way to South Korea, while I was waiting in the stopover Hong Kong airport for the connecting flight, I saw a young south-east Asian couple sitting in front of me. The girl was lying on the bench, her head propped over the boy’s lap, and legs hanging loosely over the bench’s hand-rest. The boy was caressing the girl’s hair with the gentleness reflecting the warmth of the young love.

They were showing all signs so common among young people in love. Both were smiling time and again, their eyes glimmering, face twitching with nervous excitement in a way that indicated that they were completely oblivious to the world around them -completely absorbed in their own world.

But in this case they were absorbed not in each others’ world, as I’d expected them to be. In stead they were lost in their completely immersed into the screens of their smartphones.

I looked them with awe, for this was something very strange to me, something I’d never seen before. Seven year hence, seeing people lost in their smartphones, is now a common thing, hardly a thing to be surprised of.

Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and many other so called social apps have made us ‘unsocial’ in a most ironical way. There was a time when taking calls during a social gathering was considered bad manners. Today, even in a group, seeing some heads immersed in the so-called smart phones is an acceptable occurrence. With friends or family, one can easily spot a head or two, completely engrossed in a ‘game’ or ‘social app’. A trend that is really common in the most worrying way possible these days.

And ‘relationships’ are the biggest victim of these trends.

‘Facebook Induced Jealousy’ is no more a concept term. Instead of its intended use of staying in touch with our friends, Facebook is now being used for snooping on other’s lives. Recently there is an increase in the number of cases where couples have often come up with Facebook and Whatsapp details to prove that there’s a trouble in their paradise.

Whatsapp has taken snooping to the next level where “last seen status” and “blue ticks” have compromised the details of our daily routine by putting up our activity stats on show for everyone to see. ‘You were awake till 02 am, what were you doing?’, ‘You read my message, but didn’t reply. Why?’, ‘Why you have hidden your last seen setting, are you trying to hide from me?’ -these are the few questions most of us must have faced during one time or another when in relationship.

Then there is a phenomenon of modern day breakups. Who of us haven’t experienced this? One of the most traumatizing event of youth was breakup, which would tear our heart and soul at such tender age. But at least it was a private event in the past, something which only our friends and close acquaintances knew of.

But now breakups are being done on Facebook, in full view of public, as if it was a show. To make the matters worse, one can easily see their ex’s getting on with life quickly, even getting hooked up with someone else. I can’t even remember now how many cases of suicides I’ve read in the newspaper when a boy or girl posted this on their Facebook walls and the other person just couldn’t take the mockery of their feelings.

This is just sad. Sadder than anything else out there.

We are a species who have different parts in our lives. We are mature in front of our parents, funny among our friends and romantic with our lovers. But the minute by minute updates are merging all these faces together. There was always some overlap among all these faces we had, but now the boundaries have just vanished. And for some people it is just too much to bear.

And what about our own happiness, and satisfaction -the relationships that we bear with our own selves. Stability in this is the root of stability in all other relationships?

The constant stream of photos and status makes us believe that everyone else is happy. They are having better lives, better friends, better outings. They are the ones with happiness and friends and ‘life’. They only party more, enjoy more, not I. My life is pathetic, inferior than them.

Brain scan studies have proved that one hour of Facebook daily can reduce our happiness level significantly. We can end up depressed, under confident and extremely self conscious of our own shortcomings. We become more moody and sensitive, our patience level significantly reduced, which are linked up to sudden outbursts which is becoming our second nature.

Remember when we were kid and there were serious concerns about children become moody who used to play excessive video games? The current trend has the same root, but ten times graver impact because when it comes to smart phones, there is nothing that can be called excessive. They have gamified our lives 24×7.

Where are we going with all this? A life which is marked by endless feed made up of twenty seconds attention span before we jump towards next update. A life of ignoring our real lives and getting lost in how many likes we got since we last put up a photo or update. A life that gives too much weight-age to Facebook friends, people whose emotional attachment is limited to two dimensions of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, rather than real friends who can really make a difference, in our lives?