Just a few months back, on a random sunny day with a spare internet connection and no inspiration to work, I logged into my Orkut account. Just like that, to check the cobwebs there, to go through some haunting profile pictures and equally damaging scraps written in weird English. There was my profile, in all its nostalgic glory, telling me I have no recent visitors.
It was like a circus has left town. All eerie, silent and gloomy. I looked back.
It was the later part of 2007, when I, along with hundreds of others signed up for a social-media start-up called Orkut. It offered to help us connect with our friends. But weren’t we already? Anyways the platform promised novelty and media-sharing capabilities, plus an extended network of friends. It was a small step for the internet-communicators, but a giant leap for stalkers.
Orkut was developed by a bored Google employee, Orkut Buyukkokten (yes, I had to google how to spell him). Though there were other social media platforms in existence, such as Hi5 and myspace, but 2006 was a time when social media crossed a niche threshold, and began to seep into the wider public usage. After many years of Yahoo! Messenger and the obscurity and mystery surrounding ’20s Love’, and other such chat rooms, social media was here to bring spotlight on you, your identity and your network.
Orkut for me was a liberation platform initially. It was used as a combination of a blog about personal thoughts, photos, and also a messenger to chat with friends. It rose and succeeded in countries such as Brazil and India, where it enjoyed the highest and second-highest user base, respectively. A lot of people thronged the user network. New friends were made and ‘communities’ joined.
The friend-base in Orkut generally consisted of your closed ones, unless you were the adventurous types – sending random friend requests to all the ‘beautiful profile pictures’ and ‘$/\/\@RT’ and ‘kewl’ people. No kidding, profiles were actually named like that. I call it a ‘liberation-platform’ as it was one of the first platform which allowed people to voice themselves and let others comment on it. Communities like ‘SRK Fan Club’ to the local area community, people came together to share and express themselves, many of whom weren’t active bloggers. It was an easy medium.
It was my first-ever experimentation with social media. In fact, I tried Yahoo! Messenger much later. I was hooked to Orkut from the word go. Blogging already interested me, with a few too-embarrassing-to-be-recalled posts I started with since I was in class seven. It was fascinating to share your heart out with people and get their response. All those sparkling scraps, and glorifying testimonials – became the true test of friendships. Everyone became a ‘scrap-dealer’. A world where you were a celebrity in a minuscule way. I spent a lot of time on it, and so did others, discovering the first joys of social era before Facebook and Twitter were to take them over.
The times got tough for people when stalkers and online-bullies joined in the rush. One of the many lessons were learnt quite early on and properly reported for abuse. But they continue to thrive, in varied faces of malware and phishing.
The fish is finally out of the water now. Yes, Orkut will die a natural death when Google will pull the plugs in favor for their ‘more popular’ platforms such as Google Plus and Blogger. I clung to Orkut since it became inevitable. I resisted the invasion of Facebook and Twitter for a long time, calling them bland and boring. But then the Great Migration had begun, and the world was there. Apart from Sharda University, of course.
So now I am here, somewhat dejected in losing a great part of my teenage years. So many memories were created by Orkut in its short-lived existence. I cherish them all.
And to conclude, I post here the last status update I posted on Orkut, dated Aug 15, 2010. “One Tym Die-Hard Orkut user has fallen prey 2 d Facebook Frenzy. Yes,I hav shifted base 2 Facebook. Been a long tym, n longr 2 commit ds..”