x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Desi girl discovers the perils and perks of social media

I experience withdrawal symptoms if I stay away from Facebook for more than a couple of hours at a time. And then Instagram happened.

If you cut me open, you will find status updates and hashtags flowing through my veins. No joke: I eat, breathe and sleep social media in all its forms.

I still recall the trepidation with which I initially approached Facebook all those years ago, though. Those were the Orkut years.

"I'm getting off Orkut. This new website called Facebook seems so much better," said the 2006 email from Abbas that started it all. I had randomly met him on the shady cyber streets of Orkut a few weeks before and we had instantly clicked. In a serendipitous social media moment, he turned out to be the older brother of my long-lost eighth-grade best friend, whom I had been hunting for years. We had parted ways in 1993, when my family moved back to Pakistan and hers to wherever her diplomat father was posted next. What were the odds of this new online friend just happening to be her brother?

Those were the days when the so-called six degrees of separation were a revelation. Nowadays, we're surprised if we don't have at least one friend in common with any new person we meet.

An early (albeit hesitant) adopter, I can't remember many days without Facebook. I experience withdrawal symptoms if I stay away for more than a couple of hours at a time.

I could never - and still can't - crack Twitter. For years, my account languished with a handful of followers for my sporadic, half-hearted tweets.

And then Instagram came along. Or maybe it was the Samsung Galaxy Note.

I'm not even remotely a techie but this gadget really caught my fancy. The massive screen makes shooting, browsing, editing and sharing pictures a joy. I quickly became an Instagram addict. I don't know if the opportunity to capture a good photograph made me stop to take notice or if this winter really did produce lovelier cloud formations than ever before.

As I became more of an Instagram junkie, those around me became increasingly irritated. And that's why this Friday was such a pleasant change of pace. I spent time in the company of people who, like me, stop mid-sentence to shoot a whimsical shadow or an oddly shaped branch - people who think nothing of spending several minutes taking pictures of a pebble from a plethora of angles and who walk with their phone held above their heads, trying to frame the buildings and clouds.

These are the good folks from Igers Dubai, a group of Instagram junkies who held their second official meet-up at Pavilion Downtown on Friday. After scarfing down mini-burgers and salmon-on-toast and sizing up our fellow junkies, we were introduced to a new product that I can already sense is going to be the death of me. The new Samsung Galaxy Camera is the gizmo I have dreamt of for so long: a cross between my beloved Galaxy Note and a proper digital camera. It lets you shoot, edit and upload pictures within seconds, right from the camera. As tempted as I was to sneak one of the test pieces into my bag, I handed it back to a Samsung representative who insisted on recording my excited rambling about how I had fallen in love with the product.

I sense a dent coming up in my wallet's future. And a severely cluttered Instagram account.

The writer is an honest-to-goodness desi living in Dubai

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