With the terrorists and Simon Cowell and Global warming and Shilpa Shetty all throwing their weight about in recent times, a cloud of gloom and despondency envelops the collective psyche of humanity. It might surprise many that, even in the midst of all this, there exist a select bunch of people who display a unique brand of cheerful (but misplaced) optimism, that one can’t help but admire them. To be more specific, I refer to the all those weird, faceless, online lotharios who haunt the colorful realms of the social networking site, Orkut. For ardent members of the site, like me, these chaps are a perennial source of entertainment.
But first, what is Orkut?
Orkut is a means through which you can systematically organize all your friends from everywhere in a single, personal, online community and then proceed to totally ignore them. ( I mean, how insane is THAT?? We have more means of staying in touch than ever before – cell phones, mails, chats, social networking sites – and yet I keep hearing the phrase ‘long time, no hear’). It works like this – you first register with the site and then almost immediately embark on a feverish campaign to add as many “friends” to your account as possible in the shortest possible time. Anything less than a 100 friends two weeks into your stint means that you have failed at the first hurdle. You are not part of the Orkut ‘elite’. You shall be looked down upon, as Kevin Federline by other celebrities, at a Malibu Rehab Clinic. Around 250 is the optimum level. If you have more than 500 friends, it can mean one of two things – either you are a power-hungry megalomaniac. Or you are a random babe named Sheela with a hot profile pic.
The Profile Pic
This is the initial point of reference for your pals on Orkut. It can make or break your future as a potential superstar in the community. Having said that, if you are a guy, feel free to put whatever pic you want to. Doesn’t matter one bit. If you are a girl, however, the profile photo gains tremendously in importance. It’s your ability to pick the perfect pic – which portrays you as being sexy and cute, thoughtful yet fun-loving, in the exact right ratio – that will dictate the number of random friend requests that you will receive per day in your scrapbook. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasized. Anything less than 5 requests per week on average implies that you have been condemned by the Orkut fraternity as being as attractive as Princess Camilla. In such an eventuality, it would be a sensible move to have a picture of a flower/tree/landscape/cute puppy/film actress, instead.
Orkut provides a means of staying connected with your friends through the concept of, for want of a better word, ‘scraps’. When you leave a ‘scrap’ for your friend, the tacit message you are actually sending him/her is – I do not wish to take the time to compose a proper email or call you, and this is the best I can do. I am, however, willing to throw in a bunch of smileys to soften the blow for you somewhat. A typical scrap might go along the lines of ‘hi :))))’. Or even ‘Hey!!!!!!. Scrap back sometime’.
Now, I find that ‘wassup’ is one of those questions thrown quite often at me. It’s the easiest thing to ask but just about the most difficult to answer. More so, when you have answered it only the previous day. I mean, how much does a typical IT professional’s life change over the course of 24 hours? And after replying to a zillion scraps each day with ‘not much man’, you just end up convinced that your life is an inexorable series of boring cubicle-dwelling days with no hope in the horizon. Visit any scrapbook and you will invariably come across exchanges between buddies that run like –
‘Hey man. ssup?’
‘Yo…..going on. How’s life?’
‘Life’s good. Hw u doin?’
‘Doing good. So wazzup??????????’
and so on and so forth. And then we wonder where today’s youth has gone wrong……..
Before you become a full-fledged member, you will have to fill out several details about your personality. Ironically, by the time you are done filling all the columns, it becomes evident that you don’t have a personality worth wasting server space over.
The first thing you fill out is the ‘About Me’ section.
This is a potential pitfall for novices. Do not make the mistake of actually writing something about you. Especially guys. That would just drive away any female who happens to land on your profile page by mistake. Instead, use this as an opportunity to appear way more clever and intellectually sophisticated than you actually are. Quote some arbitrary western philosopher. Sartre or Kierkegaard preferably. Or a few lines from a poem by Emily Dickinson. Lyrics from a rock song can make a statement. (But studies reveal that women are prone to condemning rock music as noise. So that’s a calculated risk). If you are a girl and in need of a quick cheer-up tonic, just include this disclaimer on your profile – ‘If I don’t know you already, DO NOT add me as a friend. I don’t want to make any friendships with anyone.’ This is a fool-proof method and can ensure a feeling of sustained euphoria for over 24 hours.
Women can use this to ward off any unwanted suitors at the very outset. At least that’s what you would think. Probably, internet predators check this out first. If the girl happens to be single, they greet her with this jolly message – ‘Hey Lollypop! Wanna mak frentships?’ If she happens to be ‘committed’, they make her an improved offer – ‘Hiiiiii…… Can we become in decent frendsip?’ It’s a lose-lose situation either way. For guys whose scrap count is moving slower than a tortoise with arthritis, just change your status from ‘Single’ to ‘Committed’ or vice versa and watch the scraps pour in like nobody’s business. It works, trust me.
It’s really not clear what a ‘fan’ is. Let’s just say that when you become a ‘fan’ to a lot of people, some of them will return the favor. Out of pity. You can celebrate if and when they do. Enough said.
There are a few other categories – like your preferences in books, music and cinema. Here are a few tips. Always mention Jazz. It’s supposed to be cool. Ditto for Ayn Rand in the books column. Even if you have never read ‘The Fountainhead’, or even used it as a makeshift headrest for an afternoon siesta, put it prominently in your books category. Movies by Scorcese and Cuppola are safe bets. Kurosawa earns you an appreciative nod. If you are a smoker/drinker, use the ‘trying to quit’ option, though you have no such intention. Shows your character. Might impress some girl. Similarly, ‘Mother’s cooking’ under the cuisines section is always endearing. Will definitely impress some girl.
The first thing is your ‘Ideal Match’: Kindly resist all temptation to write ‘Home lite’, or India v Pakistan etc. Not funny.
‘First thing you will notice about me’: If you are good looking or have prominent features, you can mention that. If you are someone using a flower pot in your profile pic (like we discussed earlier), just say ‘my eyes’. It’s the standard option for people like us.
‘Best feature’: Always use the ‘not on the list’ option. Makes people wonder.
‘Turn On’s: If you are someone who says creativity and intelligence are turn-ons, it’s ironic if you also mention ‘Candlelight dinner’ or a ‘A long walk by the sea shore’ as your ‘Idea of a perfect first date’.
‘Turn-off’s: The universal choice here seems to ‘hypocrites’. And yet I notice that many who say they hate hypocrites also have Hrithik Roshan or Sharapova as their profile pic. Baffling.
‘Five things I can’t live without’: Ensure that you only mention 5 things. Else you just look stupid. And ‘family’ is not a thing.
Orkut also lets you write testimonials. You can let the world know what you think about your close friends. All within 1024 words. Yes – the creators of Orkut believe that none of us are worth writing more that 1024 words about. In any case, I observe that people have been insidiously using this facility as a veritable window of opportunity. I mean, I have seen guys say pretty much anything they want to girls without getting heels thrown at their solar plexus. You wouldn’t fancy it under normal conditions. Let me explain. Imagine this hypothetical situation. Two friends. Talking. Then –
Bloke A to girl – ‘You know….. you are quite beautiful.’
Girl to Bloke A – ‘Whoa! Are you flirting with me??!!!’
And she breaks off the friendship and never speaks to him again. We’ve all seen this happen. Many times. But this is how it works in the mad world of Orkut.
Bloke A to girl – ‘ Ok…here goes. You are the most beautiful girl I have ever come across. Have known you for 4 weeks but I think you are the epitome of feminine grace and charm. You are really helpful, kind, generous, intelligent, obedient, elegant, athletic, adorable…….in short, AMAZINNNGGGGGGG!! I am proud to have you as my friend in this journey called life. Stay the same forever………or at least, for the next few months.
Just wanted to tell you in advance that this is what I have written in your Orkut testimonial.’
Girl to Bloke A – ‘How sweet!’
What is even more fascinating is to read some testimonials written by Bloke A for his male buddies.
A sample – ‘Have known this bugger for over 10 years…….laziest bum in the world….LOL…….Gundooos (that’s what I call the bledy dawg) can be helpful at times and is a good friend to have. (You better pay me well for this bastard).
On top of this, you get to “approve” any testimonial your friend writes for you before it goes into your profile. Quite ridiculous, isn’t it? You could be like – ‘Machi, you haven’t used the word greatest at all. Besides, you don’t mention I am completely trustworthy. Or funny. I think I will reject this one. Not enough superlatives. Better luck next time….’
But aren’t we digressing a bit here? I was talking about these blokes who merrily go about making their presence felt by soliciting friendship deals from unknown women……….. Their philosophy seems to be simple enough. If one leaves enough of these scraps around, someone is bound to one day come back with a – ‘Hello Mr. Fun4life. I am thrilled to be your friend!! Let me dump my boyfriend and we can go on a cruise together straightaway!!’
Can’t argue with that logic, can you? (Although what is probably happening in reality is one girl showing these scraps to her friend going – ‘Look, THAT THING wants to be my friend…….hahahahahahaha’).
All said and done, I have come to the conclusion that Orkut is just another one of those things designed with the sole intention of making guys look bad – along with serial killers, Lallu and pony tails. It’s a complete waste of time, there is no meaningful exchange of thoughts or information and nobody bothers to stay in touch anyway. So, it begs the question – why be on Orkut at all?
Any answers anyone?