Everyone has an online story.

I met J on Orkut in 2006. We got married, to each other in 2008. This line has been a brilliant conversation starter at dinner parties where newly-married folk get the most attention. We got our share with our ‘how we met’ story. Orkut shutting shop feels like the end of an era, the nostalgia, the first “scrap” that J and me exchanged (for the record, he pinged me first) remains special. The conversations soon moved on from Orkut to Blogger, and both of us eager writers had our personal blogs where ‘comments’ helped us know each other better.

Of course, Gmail and Gchat took this exchange further; long emails and the even longer wait for the inbox counter to increase by one. The joy of seeing the crisp white strip of an unread new mail.

Representational image. AFP

Love blossomed. And I moved cities to be with him. Orkut made me leave a life I had known behind, and move from one city to another, because some boy had left me a line there.

Back in the early days of social networking, when Orkut was teaching us the ropes, people were more honest in their profiles. The testimonials were heart warming, the photos were easy to share and more importantly, it was very easy to stalk complete strangers, but people were less careful about their online personas, it was all about the real “you”.

For those who can jog their memories a little further down, to a time before Orkut, ICQ ruled the internet’s social circles. I made friends via ICQ who I’m still in touch with. Its icon of a flower tapping its foot, “searching friends” for you, was the ultimate symbol of “cool”. The icon of a door slamming shut when someone logged out. The pleasant knock-knock when one of your friends was online. ICQ connected a whole lot of crazy together, friends from the US and Russia were a common occurrence because the foot-tapping flower didn’t search only in your city, but all over the world for who was online at that moment or “available”. No guesses then that I had also met my first boyfriend, on ICQ. Hotmail was the messenger of choice back in the day, and while that relationship sank before Blogger made its entry, it did have one unexpected side-effect. Getting over a heartbreak makes a writer out of many of us, and my blog posts were punched out in regular bouts of self-pity. The blog caught the eye of an editor, who offered me a job, but let us just talk about love.

Facebook, new to the game, didn’t know that people were eager to meet new friends. So we had to add everyone we knew to then maybe meet some more interesting folk. The timeline took the fun out of the spontaneous and even funny, “frandship” requests that Orkut offered in 2004.

I haven’t been on that site for years. I don’t know anyone who is still there, though the last time I checked a lot of Brazilians want to be my “amigos”. They don’t make social networking sites like they used to. They are far more slick and integrated now but nothing is a coincidence and little is left to chance. People type out less about themselves. The questionnaires that you fill about yourself when you log in, feel like lists for shopping websites to fight over what to sell you as soon as you say you live in Delhi and love J K Rowling.

Today, social networking is all about advertisements.

Orkut was lame with its sky-blue website, the small space for a profile picture, the clumsy scrap wall, but it had real people, using bad pick-up lines and guess what, some did work.

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