R. Dinakaran , heads the Internet edition of The Hindu Business Line and writes on technology and social media.

R Dinakaran

Losing a friend, virtually

| Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on June 03, 2013

The week began with a bad news. I lost one of my friends - Atul Chitnis - to cancer. He is my friend, but I have never talked to him; or even met him. But I have ‘conversed’ with him.

My ‘conversations’ were in Twitter. He was an Apple fanboy. Once we had a small conversation about how he was almost abused by other Android fanboys. I felt guilty, because I am an Android guy, but I was helpless. I apologised on behalf of those who abused him, but he did not respond to my tweet.

Later on, he said he was going for a chemotherapy, and wanted the Tweeple to pray for him. I set aside my Atheist philosophy for a moment, and wondered if God was really there, whether he would listen to my one prayer. I also tweeted back wishing him well, but he chose not to respond. I did not mind, as I was aware that he would have got hundreds of wishes from his over 8,000 followers.

I went and had a look at his Twitter profile. It said: “Irrationally committed product guy, FOSS.IN founder, former PCQuest columnist, writer, RadioVeRVe, amateur musician & cook, beating stage 4 cancer.”

Today, my Twitter timeline was filled with tweets about his demise. For a moment, I was shocked and it took a few minutes for me to recover. He was so jovial and even made fun about cancer. I had not realised that the cancer was in such an advanced stage.

I went to his Twitter page and saw his last tweet. It said: “Morning prayer: Pink Floyd's Shine on You Crazy Diamond :) Complete with my cousin's cat in Berlin”. It was updated “2 days ago”. There was not a single mention of cancer or any indication about how severe it was. The DP still had the smiling Atul.

The incident has set me thinking: Why do I feel so much when someone whom I have never met or talked, dies? Why should I feel that I have lost one of my friends when he has not even bothered to respond to some of my tweets?

I feel social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, are now part of our lives so much that it has become impossible to distinguish between those I interact in person and those in social media.

A few months ago, a Twitter friend came to visit me. We chatted almost for an hour, as if we knew each other well for years. Later, in a conference, Sachin Kalbag, Editor of Mid Day tweeted asking if anyone in his timeline was at the conference. I responded. And in the break, I went straight to him and said ‘Hi, I am Dinakaran’. He wondered how I recognised him. I told him I was seeing his DP every day in my timeline.

Though we didn’t have time to talk much, we didn’t have to waste time introducing ourselves. We ‘knew’ each other quite well and had ‘interacted’ a few times in Twitter before we met personally.

I have also realised that I interact with people more in Twitter and Facebook nowadays. I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but it is a sure sign of how we are slowly getting dragged into a virtual world.

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Published on June 03, 2013
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