Wednesday, July 29, 2009

THE LIFE CYCLE OF ADDICTIONS

Circa 2000:

"Appa, what's that?"
"This is a messenger... Something you use to talk to your friends far away over the computer."
"Oooh... Looks complicated, I don't think I'll ever use something like that... Must be mainly for business users."

A month later:

"What, are you still on the computer?"
"Yes Appa!"
"Don't you have school tomorrow? What are you doing?"
"On the internet."
"What? What are you doing on the internet so late?!"
"Chatting on Yahoo! messenger with my school friends!"
"The same people you're meeting tomorrow?"
"Erm... Yes."
"I'll never understand this generation."

Well, its not too difficult to fathom, is it? Each of us have been in the shoes of the aforestated story's protagonist (name withheld for security reasons) at some point or the other.

There's no point resisting change, also known in the 21st century as a new tech fad. MSN messenger was the coolest thing in town till it became uncool (erm, why again?). Then Yahoo! messenger took over. Ooh, yellow, funny icons. I like. And it's minimalist (oh, oh... Do we sense the beginning of something here?). Y! was the craze (and the people like me who fall in the intersection of grammatical perfect and technocratii would insist on putting the ! after Yahoo, of course).

Then came GMail. And GTalk. Suddenly it was all about who had lesser buttons. No, wait, that was the iPod. Suddenly rewind and fast forward seemed passe and disposable. We must have lesser buttons. People are getting dumber, so give them lesser things to confuse their little minds with. They just need something cool to carry around and listen to Britney Spears... And oooh, let's prefix it with a character in lower-case to show off our uber-coolness (forgive absence of the two antennae on the u in uber).

Then came this whole thing called social media. This is when my theory of niche -> cult -> cool -> popular -> marketing -> blah got formulated. I'll just call it THE LIFE CYCLE OF INTERNET ADDICTIONS.

Like all of you who thought my cricket stump theory was cool, you're likely to think this is Nobel-material too.

Niche: A piece of social media is first known by about 1000 people on the internet. You're a weirdo if you're part of the wave. Or ahead of your time.
Cult: Then people start to hear of it, but are too lazy / stupid to do anything about it. So in 2003, if you blogged, you were smart and part of a cult breed. You could get away with "No darling, I need to blog tonight". No questions asked.
Cool: More people get onto it. More crappy blogs like this one. More people putting videos of cats peeing on YouTube (why are the poor felines maligned the most when it comes to YouTube's UGC?).
Popular: Now everyone's on it. You're uncool if you don't have a Twitter profile. You're behind the times if three minutes after your monthly night out with the guys, the photos are not on Flickr. Oooh, social outcast.
Blah: Now everyone's on it, there's no more fun.

This is what I call the Life Cycle of Internet Addictions.

You don't believe me? Let's take a few examples.

Remember hi5.com? Back in 2004, when some of us knew how to use the internet, we found this amazing sleek site. You could upload photos. Ooh, you can fill in what music you like. Wow, you can even add your friends (just pause and think to yourself whether pre-2002 a phrase like 'add your friend' would have made sense). You can even write testimonials for them! How cool! I can waste hours writing nice things about my friends and hope they will scratch my back! Yay!

And then before you knew it, hi5 was all over the place and the 'cool dudes who got there first' didn't want to be seen on the same social networking site as the 'loser with no proper English who uses says things like 'i m fun n sexxy man' for 'About Me''. I remember on a class trip, one of the hi5 early adopters said something about this new thing called Orkut. We were all too lazy to join, of course. Who needs another place to upload photos and write about my favourite books again, na?

But it happened. Orkut became cool. And then before you knew it, Orkut became uncool. Because there were too many jerks on it, too much spam, too many ***##### Back in Moombai ###**** people, we needed something nicer. Cooler. So now we've decided to go back to complicatedness with... Facebook! Of course! Who could not love Facebook? Only the cool guys were on it. Having a Facebook profile was like automatic SEC A categorization. I just hope Facebook doesn't die out, though. A fourth social networking site and copy-pasting all those things again is too much of a pain.

Applications within Facebook go through this cycle too. First it was photos. Then quizzes. The quizzes here deserve a special mention. They progressively became more idiotic, till even the most stupid person on Facebook snapped with the introduction of the quiz called 'Which Stupid Facebook Quiz are you?'. So then we moved onto games. Farmville is the latest, and it's quite addictive. But you can that it's just a matter of time before people have enough of planting virtual strawberries and milking virtual cows.

How about user-generated blah, then? Blogs were supposed to be a way for us to express ourselves. Anyone who would write well, of course, quickly got themselves a blog and went of typing like never before. Later adopters who were looking to get onto the cool train and hope to be seen as cool - people like me, basically - came on board too. Then noone had the patience (or vocabulary, let's be honest) to write out full-length posts. So came... Twitter! Yes! How wonderful is the concept! Imagine the 2009 you going back in time to the 2000 you:

2000 you: So, 2009 me, what great advances in technology have we made in a decade?
2009 you: Well, we now use our phones while in the loo to tell our friends that we are pooping.
2000 you: Erm, whats so fancy about that? I can do that if I can afford a cell too...
2009 you: (what an idiot!) no no, you don't call them. You use GPRS to connect to a service that updates people who follow your posts
2000 you: So you mean people actually subscribe to these 'updates' to hear about you defecating?
2009 you: Precisely! Ingenious, isn't it?
2000 you: If I kill myself now, does that make you cease to exist?

Well there we are, then. Twitter will die out in some time and soon we will be expressing our moods using a selection of 50,000 smileys. And then probably, getting sick of that, there will be a service that scans our brain waves and shares our moods with the world. The possibilities are endless.

From people who used to communicate by whapping themselves on the head with clubs (also known to be the earliest form of Morse Code), we've really come a long, long way, baby.

Now to publish this post, put it on Twitter, Facebook and GTalk.
After harvesting my strawberries on Farmville, of course.

PS: Looking back on the post, I'm really unable to figure out why I put that Yahoo! messenger thing up front... But there are bigger mysteries... Like why did GreenDay play those four out-of-scale bars at the end of Boulevard of Broken Dreams. So maybe by putting obtuse things together, I'll become cool. Yay!

16 comments:

Green-seas said...

The theory makes sense. But I hope facebook doesn't die out. It is way classier than orkut.
Although we could do without 'Sorority Life'...

Ash said...

First Hi5 then Orkut now Facebook how long before it becomes oh something else although Facebook is doing a brilliant job wit all its external applications, doesn'e exactly give ppl a chance 2 get bored! Orkut finally jus had 2 many sad, horny losers on it!

Anonymous said...

the next level of social media will be known as reality media. where people will get bored of virtual and pay money to meet real people on real chatrooms. what fun! and a billion dollar venture.

Green-seas said...

The 'sad, horny losers' part is so true..
There was a guy who tried to add one of my friends. According to his profile, he 'luvs crcking jokes' because he 'luvs beeutiful cheeks nd they luk even more beeutiful whn they smile'....

Kamana said...

I dont know abt ur previous theory which ws nobel prize wnning.... but this one truly is. The vicious circle of how stupidity follows stupidity and then stupidity is all that there is left....

Which makes facebook outcastes like me, as the people who will be having the last laugh!

Amma said...

L.O.S.E.R

You are out of college and still hovering with Facebook?? Sheesh!
Shame on you dude! Didn't you know that all Really.Important.Grown.Up.People use only LinkedIn?

Cow-Herd said...

Its called *Idiocracy*. Its a movie. A very fun movie on somewhat the same basic underlying principles of ur blog entry. I strongly recommend u watch it if u havent already! :D

gogi said...

"If I kill myself now, does that make you cease to exist?" :D lolzzz
Loved it...

person within said...

nice, thoughtful and well written!!

ChUcK said...

@ Ash, GreenSeas: Just do a Google search for 'worst Orkut pick-up lines'. They're hilarious. If you're lucky, you'll find a few scathing responses as well :-D

@ PW: Thanks :-)

@ Arjun: Idiocracy is a special movie to me... You know why :)

Green-seas said...

You, have way too much time on your hands. :-D

Mrinalini said...

ROFL! I cant get over your post..randomly reached ur blog and plan to stay here for sure :D
Farmville bit is the funniest, it strikes a chord u knw :P

ChUcK said...

@Greenseas: Not really... I just somehow manage to type out blogposts while travelling :P

@ Mrinalini: Haha, thanks - and welcome to CoD! Thanks for reading! Would love to know the 'random' route though.

Green-seas said...

:-) I was talking about the Google search for 'the worst Orkut pick-up lines'.

What am i? said...

Interesting blog! :)

Deepak Gopalakrishnan said...

Thanks :)