On May 14, we brought you the second part in a series that explores the dynamics of interpersonal relationships with the advent of online social networking. Today, Abhishek Mande speaks to another youngster to analyse how online interactions are influencing lives.
Sufyan Agwan is a little over 16 years old. He struggles with English when he is speaking to you. On Facebook though his updates are quick, crisp and in English... or what is passed off as English on social networking sites. 'plyd cric with d new guys' is his latest one. He decodes the message for me: "I made some new friends and played cricket with them," he says.
His wall is filled with messages such as these -- random posts from his friends cursing the IPL, predicting the T20 world cup winner, recounting what they did on an evening out or what they're doing now -- all in 'FB English'.
Sufyan is in the final year of schooling -- the all-important tenth grade. Yet, when he stumbles out of bed every morning, he reaches out not to his books, but to his PC.
It is the only machine in the family of eight. Sufyan's cousin who lives with him is also a compulsive Facebook user. "We always have fights over who will use it," he laughs, "and my mummy has to intervene every time."
'Mummy' for Sufyan is his aunt, who has taken over the maternal role after he lost his mother a few years ago. She doesn't know a thing about Facebook or Orkut, neither does she understand the concept of the Internet. But she knows her children should not be sitting in front of the computer for so many hours.
"I keep telling them they shouldn't be spending so much time on the computer. I'd rather they do namaz or help me around the house. But neither listens," she complains.
The 16-year-old is a carefree lad. He loves to hang out with his friends, catch a coffee here, a movie there and of course update his status messages. Like most FB users, Sufyan loves to play '(sic) Farmvilla'. "It's fun. You harvest crops, you make money and you compete with your friends."
And when he isn't harvesting crops, Sufyan looks for love online. His profile says he's interested in dating women though he confesses he hasn't found one so far. He takes you through his inbox and a pretty young thing has responded to his friend request. She cannot remember if they've met before. Sufyan is making small talk with her in the secret hope that she'll add him as her friend. Needless to say, the aunt is blissfully unaware of it. All she wants is for Sufyan to study and stand on his feet. "There have been times I've just smacked him and taken him away from the computer or threatened to sell it off. If he doesn't to well, he will have to manage the family store, which he hates," she tells me.
At 16, Sufyan doesn't want to think that far. He's just changed his profile picture to a mug shot of Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor. That is how he would like the world to perceive him -- dashing, handsome and available.
Being on Facebook for Sufyan has a great amount of aspirational value. Everyone he knows is logged on. Most of his friends are 'FB farmers' and almost everyone updates their status at least a few times every day. And even though he isn't obsessive about it, Sufyan cannot imagine a life without Facebook. "It's the only way I can keep in touch with my friends," he stresses.
And how does he get around the single computer situation at home? "Simple!" he quips, pulling out a mobile phone. Sufyan taps the screen a few times and vanishes into the virtual world.
Do you have any social networking anecdotes to share? They could be funny, grim or simply bitter-sweet. Tell us all about them. Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: 'My Facebook story') and we will publish the best ones right here!