We all have some real and not-so-real social network friends. And the ones that don’t make it to your top 20 list in reality tend to stay in your virtual life only but, over a period of time, become so scarily familiar that you can predict their posts. There’s the troller, who posts and comments on every picture and update in seconds. There’s someone obsessed with achievement, hollering out every promotion and every small victory in their lives, right down to a child’s medal on sports day. The most preposterous of all are the ones who announce their political opinions loudly in their ‘Statuses’, ready to fly into a comment war with their entire friends’ list. And, of course, there are the eternal philosophisers or optimists, determined to tell you how to embrace the day with a positive attitude and a million watt smile.
It’s not like I don’t like reading tips on how to succeed and be happy, lose weight or become a yogi. Nothing bad can come out of some age-old, if random, advice that takes precisely three seconds to read and, of course, immediately dismiss. I plead guilty to sharing some of that advice with my friends as well — “Holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in your head” is a recent example. Judging from the inexhaustible number of motivational quotes, updates and pictures flooding Twitter and Facebook, it seems all of us need a little nudge in the right direction to stay on the wagon. I recently subscribed to a page called “Health is Wealth” in the vague hope that it’ll keep up my enthusiasm for the gym. Now I’m inundated with pictures of women lifting 10 kilo weights, cabbages and chicken recipes but, so far, it hasn’t changed much in my life, except superficially.
Scroll through your Facebook newsfeed these days, and chances are that you’ll feel like a shallow slacker. They’re overrun with gym check-ins and entirely contrary but yummy food pictures or inspirational quotes intended to shed some meaning on life. Algorithms can make surprisingly accurate predictions about people’s personality, preferences and even religion just by analysing updates and ‘Likes’. So, for example, the strangely vague and inexplicable Facebook status on your feed that gets weirder with every post, is probably written by a selfish attention seeker. But before we write them off totally, it’s interesting to know that your network of