The art of being a Facebook ninja

Monday Musing

[Asok Pillai]

In moments when the unstoppable profusion of opinions, posturing and post-truth politics begins to weigh on one’s otherwise quotidian worldview like white noise from a television gone amok, it is refreshing indeed when one finds an environment – a milieu, if you will – where one may observe without being observed, and where one may disregard the opinions of others without inviting argument or the risk of necessarily being perceived as a withering snob.
Facebook is that oasis, as long as you understand that the trick is in appearing to be absent while you’re there all the time, assimilating, judging, smirking, perhaps ogling at some of those Russian femme fatales now and then… but remaining absolutely silent. You must be like a ninja in an underground cave system: friends, enemies and even strangers on Facebook should on no account know when you’ve come and when you’re gone. And don’t say anything about how you’re feeling at any time – no comments, no pictures, no V-signs, no hash tags, no nothing. Just observe, make your judgment, and quietly celebrate the knowledge that you know more about others than the others will ever know about you. This frustrates them, and that’s the whole point. Here’s one corner of life where you can win without doing anything.
I signed up on Facebook a long time ago, back when most people were afraid of leaving the pacific shores of Orkut and wading into the choppy waters of Zuckerberg’s invention – back when I thought, as an innocent child, that my opinions were singularly of Socratic proportions. Turned out that everybody on Facebook had an opinion, and the situation became no better with the passage of the years. They never lacked in imagination. Sunny thoughts emerged in the form of memes and borrowed epigrams like ‘If people treat you like an option, leave them like a choice’, or ‘If you love life, life will love you back’, or some such self-evident, prosaic bull which may be uplifting for a person suffering from incurable depression, but not for me – no, sir.
Every post was tailed by responses either adamantly unilateral, with or without merit, or so inane they weren’t worth wasting one’s typewriting speed reacting to. Then came the selfies and the pictures of foods and beaches and festivals and cats and dogs and moments at the gym, followed by barbs aimed at personal enemies, which, being non-specific broadsides, caused almost everyone else, as well, to take offence. (Contd. on P-3)
Who are these people? I wondered. Where do they come from? The cross-currents of noises on Facebook were becoming echoes of the noises in the real world. That was when I decided that the time had come…
My training was long, and it was difficult. It took me months upon months, practicing alone, merely to master the art of unfriending those with extremist, humble-bragging and opportunistic views, and ceasing to ‘like’ posts that didn’t mean a damn thing to me one way or another. This went on for months on end, before the most difficult part arrived – to abstain from posting anything myself. You cannot imagine how painful it is when a bright idea sparks up in your head and you must hold back from sharing it with the virtual world. This is where my years of practicing meditation five times a day came in handy. Every time I felt that itch to share, I recalled my old friend Bruce Lee’s advice: Be formless, shapeless… like water. And that’s what I became. These days I kind-of flow through Facebook, reading or watching things that please my soul and discarding without guilt anything that looks like a spoke in the wheel of the human need to like and be liked. Total detachment – that’s the key.
However, as the great warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu said, there is always a higher stage and a deeper state. Despite my unmitigated success as a Facebook ninja, I am yet to reach that final condition of total bliss while still being alive. But there is someone I know about who has a Facebook account and no friends – not one – on her friends list. She’s just there, all on her own and happy as a lark. That’s the grandmaster stage, the kind of transcendental nirvana I aspire to achieve.