Connected in a disconnected world
KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — Logs in to Facebook, gets a friend request from Jason Tan. “Jason Tan? Wasn’t he the geek from school?” thinks the girl.
She checks out his Facebook profile. Although the facial features are the same, Jason Tan is buff now. Apparently according to his relationship status, he is single too. The girl adds him. Almost instantaneously, a notification shows that they are now Facebook friends.
From the Facebook chat a message pops up from Jason Tan who happens to be online. According to the social network profile, he is also an investment banker at an international firm. No more soda bottle glasses and shirts buttoned all the way up to the collar. Great potential mate, thinks the girl.
The two former classmates catch up, reminiscing about 10 years ago. Soon, Jason Tan is a contact on her Whatsapp. He is also following her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and they both have Foursquare.
This is after all the era of “connectedness”, where being a Facebook friend could also mean that the person is on good terms with you. Or if they “Liked” your Instagram photo, they think you took a fantastic shot of the scenery with you in the foreground. Social gatherings are easy to organise. Just mention the Twitter handles of friends that you follow. Then Direct Message information that is more personal like time and venue so there will be no party-crashers.
This is the present and future of the social network and urban society. Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and hybrids of both are everywhere. Even Grandpa owns one.
Jason Tan decides to ask his Facebook friend and former classmate on a date. He asks her on Whatsapp while in the office because the company blocks visits to Facebook and Twitter. She replies in less than five seconds, “Where to?”
The tech-savvy guy checks on Foursquare for the perfect first-date place. Using his mobile phone, he blasts out a tweet, asking his followers about dining options near the girl’s office area. After a barrage of tweets later, the date venue is set and the time confirmed via Whatsapp.
While the girl preps for the date in her office restroom, Jason Tan sends her an emoticon of a red rose on Whatsapp. He also sends virtual coins for this online game they were playing for the past few weeks. The girl always types a smiley face whenever he sends her virtual gifts.
Jason Tan picks the girl up from her office and they smile at each other. She uses her smartphone to tell her girlfriends how hot Jason looks in office attire. It is a Whatsapp group chat entitled “I won’t be single anymore.”
The minute they reach the destination that Jason Tan found on Foursquare, they find a cosy seat near the window. She squeals in delight at the beautiful ambience and thanks the guy for bringing her to a wonderful place. Before they pick up the menu to order, they check in at the restaurant on Foursquare and Facebook Check-In.
The waiter waits patiently as the duo upload photos of the restaurant on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. She is used to this kind of behaviour.
“Ready to order, sir?” the waiter’s voice is friendly but ever so slightly forced. Even his smile had a plastic look to it.
Jason Tan nods apologetically and picks up the menu, placing his smartphone beside the empty wine glass. The girl continues chatting on Whatsapp with her girlfriend, not even looking up to acknowledge the waiter.
“What’s this dish?” Jason Tan points to a French word he doesn’t understand on the menu. The waiter explains but Jason Tan isn’t happy with the explanation. He uses his smartphone to Google the name of the dish. Satisfied, he orders it and when he asks what the girl wants, she just says, “Anything.”
While waiting for the food, the girl takes photos of the flower vase on the table, the candles and the lamps on the walls. She also takes photos of herself and Jason Tan. They laugh at each others’ poses, pointing out the wacky expressions.
Jason Tan gives input on the Instagram filters she uses. He likes every photo she uploads on Instagram. They continue playing with their mobile devices until the food arrives. Then more photos.
The waiter is not surprised. He is used to smartphones being the main course at the restaurant.
After dinner, Jason Tan pays using a new mobile payment system where he scans a barcode with an application that is tied to his credit card. A notification window pops up on his phone. He’s got Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Instagram friends commenting on the delicious food and his cute date.
The dinner ends and they go home. By then, their Facebook, Foursquare, Whatsapp, Instagram and Twitter friends already know where they were, who they were with, what they ate and what they thought of each other.