Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Social Media Is For Real

I am not getting this. I think you have to be global at many levels to truly appreciate social media. I don't feel any kind of a "multiple edentity disorder." Social media makes me whole. Minus social media I feel all too fragmented.

I was born in India. I grew up in Nepal next door, attended high school in Kathmandu, not my hometown, came to America for college at a time when I could not have told you the cultural differences between Kentucky and California. A one year crash course in Kentucky's social conservatism cured me of that fast.

Cultural differences are for real. As of today I don't give two hoots - absolutely don't care - about anybody's birthday, not mine, not anyone else's. That does not make me an uncaring person. That means I grew up in a culture that celebrates festivals, not birthdays. They say every single day in Nepal somewhere a festival is being celebrated.

Super Bowl came and went. I got reminded all over again I just did not care, and that's okay. I did not even know who was playing whom. Last year I remember liking some of the commercials. This year I got deprived even of that. We are fast moving to intelligent commercials. Super Bowl commercials are drive by shootings.

Mobile phone penetration in India was rapid because there were no landlines to start with. As a tech entrepreneur I talk of a billion dollars like it were nothing. Give the credit to cultural differences. I have no baggage. I have been through so many class contexts in my life that I don't get class. I get race, I get culture, I get religion, but class eludes.

There are only two income brackets that fascinate me: self made billionaires and people who live on a dollar a day. In between is grey. It's one big blur. I attribute that to cultural difference.

Cultural differences are very real. Social media allows me to gently make that suggestion without feeling any sense of not belonging in the New York tech ecosystem. It is a huge advantage in an industry that values out of the box thinking. I was born out of the box, I grew up out of the box. I have had to live out of the box. So all I have to do is think, and I can come up with out of the box thinking.

In a city that is 60% nonwhite when I enter a room that is 100% Nepali or 98% white, of course I notice.

I read in a tweet months ago that Soraya Darabi's grandmother had died. I sent a condolence tweet. I put out a blog post. She expressed her fundamental displeasure through a tech entrepreneur friend of hers who I had been following on Tumblr, had met in person once. I was confused.

It took me about three weeks to realize what I had put together could have read to someone else like an obituary. I have known the intellectual meaning of the word a long time. But of course I did not know.

I have never written an obituary. When my great grandparents died, when my grandmother died, there was no obituary. There were funeral pyres.

I like the birthday version of learning the concreteness of cultural differences much better.

A few years back I drew a diagram called social concentric circles. Social media allows me to inhabit many of those circles. Minus social media I am crippled.

You have to have been born 10,000 miles away to truly appreciate social media. I have never felt any kind of a multiple edentity disorder. What I have felt instead is that social media makes me whole. I could not imagine my life without it. I could not imagine my work without it.

It was through social media that I was able to play a key role in Nepal's 2006 version of what just happened in Egypt, what's happening in Libya, what might happen in China. All the intensity I felt and expressed are archived at my Nepal blog.

I have tried very hard to become whole. That desire fundamentally shapes my career. That is why I am working on a microfinance startup. My passion for people, for technology, my global identity, they all come together.

I don't feel like I am different people on different platforms. I am one person. I use my first name on all platforms. And my favorite platform is Blogger. Ideas excite me. I want to constantly be reaching out to people I don't know. Social media allows for that. It is for real.

It makes me whole, not fragmented. I was fragmented before social media.
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