The Pursuit of Online Happiness


The Pursuit of Online Happiness

The world was a beautiful place in 2005.

There were two ongoing wars in the subcontinent looking for non-existent nuclear weapons, George Bush was the leader of the free world, Manmohan Singh was in power with A Raja as a minister, and Ajit Agarkar was one of our premier all-rounders. The writing was on the wall, but on Orkut – that most noble of social platforms – there was only harmony with white doves flying around.

Orkut was the perfect social media platform for our species. One had to go looking for a controversy on Orkut; it didn’t pop up JLT (just like that) on your TL (timeline). You had to be relentless, hardworking, and dedicated to the cause to go out and find it. Because back then it wasn’t easy to pick a fight online. First, you needed to find the relevant “community” where people posted the thoughts and ideas you wanted to slam. After finding the community, you had to look for the right topic posted in that community to rant about, troll, and then burn effigies of (in the order of left to right depending on your political leanings).

The posts were just as abusive, but there was always a mutual respect between haters — a sort of brotherhood even. This is because if you took so much effort just to get to a page to disagree with someone, it meant you really harboured a strong point of view on the subject being discussed, or dissed. Also, no farmer or rape victim ever felt threatened that Orkut would hijack news debates for two whole days. News and views were discussed on Orkut, but Orkut was never discussed on the news, or, on The Newshour.

Even women felt comparatively safer on Orkut. Men could stalk all the women they wanted but the most crass thing they could ever do was to leave a scrap saying, “Hey you wanna make fraansheeep with me?” (The number of As and Es in “franshep” was inversely proportional to the chance of the girl “making friendship” with you.) If men were ignored, they couldn’t do shit. Women could roam the dark alleys of Orkut without the fear of any dick pics popping up in their inbox. Well, because there was no inbox.

It was truly a golden era in social media for young male and female stalkers. True love meant going through your crush’s profile daily to see if she had uploaded a new picture, or if her ex had been leaving scraps for her, and then stalk her ex to see if she was still replying to his scraps. Online love stories weren’t relegated to a lame right swipe. Both stalking and ranting, the twin joys of our online existence, didn’t come easy on Orkut.

In 2005, if you read something smart online, you just read it. That’s it. There was no obligation to tell the world how many nephrons had increased in your body by sharing what you read.

Initially, Orkut let you upload only 12 photos to establish your cred. The importance of every photo was scrutinised thoroughly before you hit the upload button. You didn’t waste an upload on random memes or a picture with a quadriplegic dude trying to do a headstand under the caption “1 upload equals 1 salute”. The general formula was three Goa photos, two birthday photos, three New-Year photos, two photos with generic old people (to gain some sympathy) and a picture each with a dog and a celeb (in case of low self-confidence). The absence of a “like” button meant you had to meet the person and tell them, “Hey, I really liked the picture of you and that boyfriend of yours who cheated on me last year.”

If people liked you, they became your fans. If they loved you, they wrote “testis” about you. If they hated you, well, they actually had to bitch about you behind your back. Orkut brought about a perfect online and offline balance to the world.

In 2005, if you read something smart online, you just read it. That’s it. There was no obligation to tell the world how many nephrons had increased in your body by sharing what you read. And if you read enough, you knew nephrons were not the same as neurons. You didn’t come under pressure to plagiarise other people’s thoughts and ideas to prove to the world that you were an intellectual. It was acceptable to not have a point of view on every goddamn issue under the sun.

Hence, the left wing got along with the right wing – East Bengal fans got along famously with the Man United fans. Fans of Lata di’s (adding di just to stay alive) music got along fine with fans of Priyanka Chopra’s music, despite the fact that PeeCee had only two fans – Pit Bull and PeeCee herself. The whole world just got along like one big party.

I miss that world. I miss 2005; when you didn’t thrust your half-boiled and half-baked opinions into other people’s faces every day. When you didn’t rant for the sake of ranting. When you didn’t spew hate for the sake of hating. When you didn’t make issues out of non-issues. When you didn’t have to like, share, subscribe, and tweet everything you came across.

But hey, it’s 2016 now. The white doves have disappeared. So please like, share, subscribe, and tweet this article. Though try not to Snapchat it, because that could land you a couple of FIRs, a barrage of threatening calls, or calls for your hanging. However, Snapchat it only if you are a “9 times winner of #BestComicActor”, in which case, you’re safe.