As is my wont, when I do something, I do it as thoroughly and assiduously as I can. I wrote up a fairly detailed profile of myself, started my own community, logged on at least twice every day except when I was travelling or in hospital, visited several hundred communities, read up more than a thousand individual profiles, answered several thousand scraps, provided a link to my blog, started a few polls to find out what people were thinking… so now, when I sit back to retrospect, readers may be assured that I know what I am talking about, because I have done my homework.
On the plus-side, I have been able to get back in touch with a lot of folks, especially ex-students who are now scattered all over India and the world. Many of them sound glad about it, too. I have about 225 friends on orkut right now (the number keeps changing slightly every now and then, because some people drop off without notice, and some new people join up). Till date I think I have invited only three to become my friends here: all the rest requested to join. If I had not rejected numerous requests, that number would have been more than 500 by now. Of late I have become more finicky about adding to that list of friends, but more about that later. My community has grown to 150-plus members, and some people take part intelligently and frequently in the various debates on the forum – so that’s some cause for satisfaction too. Alas, this list of plus-es ends right here!
On the other hand, my grouches are far more numerous. Let me list them here for my own satisfaction:
1. As the demographics will show, the overwhelming majority of orkut members are very young: teenagers (including under-18s!) or people in their 20s. I would have had no problems with that – as a rule I have always enjoyed the company of the young – but for two factors: a near-total absence of grown-up people makes the discussions and interests very narrow and often juvenile, and alas, most young members seem to believe that orkut is meant only for sharing silly and vulgar jokes or scrapping your friends ‘hey … wassup?’ over and over again, and they all write wretchedly wrong and caricatured English (even those who I know are quite capable of doing better) under the illusion that that makes them ‘cool’, or that it is somehow necessary to stay on orkut!
2. Thousands of communities, so many of them dedicated to (or named after) great and clever men and women, or important issues – Sri Ramakrishna or Einstein or Harry Potter or nuclear physics or some favourite teacher or school – but they all peter out within a few weeks of launching, or degenerate into sharing advertisements about free wallpaper- and ringtone-downloads, or videos of some bimbo bathing! Apparently the typical orkuter holds one conviction very strongly: nothing must give his friends the idea that he is a knowledgeable person interested in sharing interesting and intelligent thoughts!
3. The typical orkuter also suffers from a massive inferiority complex, so she even saves all her scraps as a kind of trophy: see, she seems to be saying to the world, I have 17,563 scraps; am I not important? And if you look into the contents of all those scraps, …!
4. Nobody obeys basic rules, such as not posting obscene pictures, and despite all those warnings, the administrators do virtually nothing to discourage all the riffraff, fearing, I suppose, that the riffraff form such a huge majority of members that if they are all thrown out, the site won’t survive! Says something both about young mankind today as well as about Google’s pathetic desperation to make money at any cost, doesn’t it? Sergey Brin and Larry Page might make as many billions as they like, but I cannot respect them any longer. As I often tell my daughter, I won’t model in my underwear despite knowing that models are paid much more than teachers: that reflects a certain social sickness (like paying cricketers far more than soldiers, firemen, nurses, policemen and judges), with which I cannot compromise and still dare to call myself a gentleman.
5. Alas, so crude has orkut’s image become (and fear of addiction to it) that I can see even a lot of young people – nice, informed, clever people – are getting off, or refusing to join. The result is obvious: the density of vulgar and confused pinheads keeps increasing every day!
6. As I noted before, a lot of orkuters use the facility merely to send abusive scraps to folks like me. The only thing that achieves, of course, is that I get to know what sort of people they are, and instantly transfer them to my 'ignore user' list: you should see how big that list has become.
7. Most people who send me requests to join either cannot read, or don’t bother to: otherwise, given the contents of my profile, why should they send requests without the little self-introduction I have explicitly asked for? I have made a habit of rejecting such requests out of hand: on some days, I reject four or five at once.
8. From the profiles of hundreds of people, I have found a few common and highly distressing facts: lots of folks are absolutely clueless or incoherent about themselves! Either they write ‘I am cool, fun and sexy…’ (people call me rude and arrogant, yet I should die of shame to praise myself like that, and in slangy language too!), or rubbish like ‘it’s for you to find out’, or they simply copy and paste something that some poet wrote, imagining that that should serve as a self-description!... and all these are supposed to be educated people; they would get very angry if they were called ignorant and foolish!
9. I am still on orkut for two reasons only: to draw people’s attention to this blog, and for the sake of running my community, ‘The Good Life!’ (you will notice that I am not a member of any other community: I joined a few and quickly left out of disgust). Even the 150-odd membership strength of my community is highly misleading, because hardly a dozen participate regularly. If I am still on orkut despite all these grouches, it is because more than a hundred people have let me know that they visit my community (and/or read my blog) with keen interest even if they don’t – or cannot – write in, and a few good people have told me that if that many people are paying attention in a sustained manner even in this distracted and frenzied age, I should not suddenly go off the air.
But this much is for sure: the day I find there’s a better alternative to orkut, I am going to quit for good. Orkut’s been on the whole a big disappointment. Given the marvellous technology behind it, I guess it only bears out the Dalai Lama’s ironic observation about all of us living in an age when we have wonderful things to communicate with, and nothing to communicate!