Category Archives: The New Social Order

Finding that ‘Extra’ in the Ordinary


I often think about why is it that the beginning of the year is always much more pleasant and relaxing than the rest of the year.  Most of us start the new year with a lot of work, planning the year ahead requires creativity and dedication. But why is it that the beginning is always far better, people you meet are happier; some even have that extra skip in their walk.  Come November, it is such a ‘Thursday’ of the year, with all of us barely surviving and looking forward to the year’s end already.

A well-rested mind my friends is what makes us happy.  A happy heart is what makes us be ambitious about how we will work throughout the rest of the year.  Rest is not just in terms of returning from a long home leave.  Rest is being at peace with one’s own self.

This year, whatever is left of it anyways – can we all try and not greet each other with ‘So how are you – busy?’ I often find this statement very amusing – the person asking the question always assumes that on your behalf already, with the risk that if you dare say you are not busy actually, might be held against you.  So let’s try this again today, ‘How are you?’ *insert pause* let’s allow the other person to come up with their own update.  Great social experiment I tell you, and no, you are not allowed to answer with ‘busy’.  Let’s dig out other nice adjectives!

As part of the ADB cohort taking this Breakthrough leadership course this year, if there is one take away for me it is this: Find that ‘Extra’ in the Ordinary around us.  As we push the mundane life of going about our business – let us all stay positive.  Let us be a kind mentor to those working in our teams, and a supportive aide to those leading us. It is not always possible to find one’s ideal and interests in our work or personal life but let us all try and make the best of what we are given.   Instead of complaining about the bureaucracy within the institution, or the complexities of managing relationships – let’s reflect on how we can be a better version of our own selves.  Let us all be more people-oriented, be courteous at the minimum to each other, and if we can manage to keep a smile on our face despite the workload, then to me, we stand as a winner in this year’s run!

I heart twitter no more…


Shaista Hussain, Islamabad…Tweeting since 30 June 2009 and now have lost track of why I joined twitter in the first place! Yes Sire, I too, have reached the tipping point that comes in the life of any new social networking site.  I am b-o-r-e-d and I heart twitter no more…

Twitter has increasingly become an I-can-rant-all-I-like place even if people are having a bad day and especially when people are having a bad day! There is far too much information stream and that’s primarily one’s own fault because hey, we can always ‘unfollow’ anybody we do not agree with.  I find this blogpost by Seth Simonds most amusing: Why I unfollowed 45,000 people on twitter!

In the Pakistani twitter space or atleast the people I am currently following, there is way too much people bashing and especially politician bashing for my taste.  Tweeples of Pakistan, what is the matter with us? Why can we not positively use having people like Imran Khan, Pervaiz Musharaf, Marvi Memon and other prominent politicians as an opportunity to engage with them in a healthy manner, bring out issues instead of verbal abuse? And here, I am not debating which ones operate their own twitter accounts! I think it is such a positive step that our politicians are increasingly becoming social media savvy and we should use it for positive change and healthy debates and bringing out the issues to the forefront instead of what I find a disgusting attention seeking behaviour – verbal abuse.  Let’s leave that to certain primetime mainstream media shows now shall we? With the increasing number of prominent politicians joining the new social order, imagine the possibilities of connecting a common citizen directly with the elected leaders!

A while ago, I was sharing my annoyance with twitter with fellow tweeples and friends, Awab, Sana and Faisal and we all agreed how much negative information stream can be such headache inducing! It is about time we review our list of people we follow, ‘clean out’ certain tweets from our lives for good and just follow like-minded people. And perhaps that was why I joined twitter in the first place.

Of Fakebook, hacking and other Demons


It was perhaps 2007 when I first registered for a facebook account.  I remember my sister sent me an invitation and out of plain curiosity, I joined what I later declared the ‘ultimate time waster’.  To be fair, facebook is great fun keeping up with your family and friends, checking out what fun your friend had in that family vacation to Dubai, wedding pictures and facebook groups serve to keep family members updated who are missing out on all the fun, that newly born adorable baby born to your cousin, keeping an eye on your colleagues and especially those working under your teams and last but not the least, keeping tabs on the life and adventures of your ex-flame! With the advent of social media in Pakistan and with the sudden explosion of the ‘most used social network’, you see your mom, khalas and phupos, cousins, nieces and nephews all joining the bandwagon.  I sometimes tease my brother and sister that with our blackberry savvy mother commenting on most of our facebook activity, maybe it is time to move to another social networking site.

Recently I have known two incidents, of stalking and hacking of facebook accounts, in cases where the girls whose IDs were hacked were put through the mental agony of their pictures shared with a wider audience, including their family members, causing not just panic and embarrassment but also severe stress.  I am concerned because they were young underage girls, and when you are immature and vulnerable, you tend to trust people who you think are your ‘friends’, not realizing that the big bad world of the internet is inhabited by an entire network of individuals who will stalk you and who will comprise your privacy.  Facebook is the new tool for a broken-heart-on-vengeance.  Hacking somebody’s account or faking their ID is the new trend and if you are not careful, you run the risk too! There is a good post here on one of my favourite blogs, Deadpanthoughts, by Faisal Kapadia, that provides some good advice on how not to get hacked.  Another blogger friend, Awab Alvi shared the link to report privacy violations on facebook as I sought his advice once to help out one of the younger victims of facebook stalking.  This link is useful for everyone to know, just in case you ever need it.

My father has been playing a lead role on combating Cyber Crimes and I was discussing this evening of the key issue of vulnerability and what can be done to prevent damage coming to one’s loved ones. His response shook me to the core: he asked me would you allow your son to go out unaccompanied? I said, ‘no, in these turbulent days, never!’ He then said, so why should any parent let their children loose in the cyberspace where each link can allure him/her to anywhere they should not be. In this day and age, when parents who monitor who their child meets and interacts with, must not ignore the new social media, where the internet is interactive, responsive, interfering and at times disturbing like a strange man peeking inside your house through the window.

The fact remains that you cannot stop children from what is available out there as that itself is not a viable solution.  It only raises curiosity and adds value to the allurement charm of the new and shiny tools of communicating with a world out there. What you can do however is to be more aware, know your way around the privacy settings of the new social media and be there to ‘share instantly’ what your growing child would like to discuss without being ‘judged’ by you.  Else, you must remember that there will be ‘others’ taking up the role of the keen listener in the big crowd of the innumerable possibilities of the social media out there.  The choice is ours.

I for instant – Our Next Generation


It struck me for the first time the day I was searching frantically for my missing handbag (read ‘stolen’) and my then 7-year old son’s reaction was to immediately sit down with my laptop and much to my annoyance, he actually googled, ‘pictures of people who steal purses’. Later that night, I took a picture of the screen that was still open and it actually made me smile (in a still-annoyed sort of way, yes). He literally thought that the internet was the answer to my dilemma. But then again, you cannot really blame him. He has seen me search for questions in cyberspace and sometimes we use the internet together to search for interesting concepts we come along. Since I run the risk of my brother reading this blog post as well, I would like to add that we have only recently started using Bing, the decision engine which is far more useful! But the fact remains that at age 7 my son thought that the internet or technology was invincible. Ouch.

There is a very interesting article that I recently read on the ‘children of cyberspace’ about today’s children and how the emerging technology is shaping their views of the world and how different their perceptions would be from not only their parents but also perhaps their own elder siblings, given the lightening speed with which technology is catching pace. Is it any wonder then that my 2-year old son is far more at easy with my cellphone (a blackberry) than I was six months back when I had just bought it. The same article also brings forward a very interesting opinion, that today’s iGeneration as it calls them, are so reliant on ‘instant messaging’ that they will grow up to expect an ‘instant response’ from anyone they communicate with and will not have the patience for anything else. The ability to multitask at a far greater extent than their elders is a definite trademark for this new generation but the question of ‘concentration’ and ability to ‘focus’ on the task at hand is a big question mark. The current generation that is growing up in a world of ‘real’ and ‘online friends’ and has somewhat ‘relaxed notions of privacy’ as compared to their predecessors does raise eye brows especially those amongst us who are still not social media savvy. While it is natural for one generation to denounce the others and only think of their time as ‘the best ever’ (we all have heard similar stories from our grandparents and parents of ‘their times’) but this issue definitely needs some food for thought.

This is a generation which is being brought up by learning to say the Alphabet from the Sesame Street DVDs to interactive digital books. If you happen to sit in a group of elementary school kids, especially boys, you will only hear them talk of their gadgets: game boys, play station, Nintendo, the PSP and a gazillion collection of their associated cartridges and DVDs! Parents often complain the lack of ‘physical exercise’ for their children and that ‘they are always stuck to the TV screens’. Our children have so many choices on the television, with each programme competing to be more ‘violent’ in content than the other. This generation has so many choices around them that they also get ‘bored’ easily! I was reading this article by a friend on her facebook profile of how those of us born in the 70s and 80s enjoyed a ‘non-digital’ childhood with lots of playing outside in the streets with no fears that are rampant in today’s security environment. While all of us enjoyed the article as a trip down the memory lane, it did make me think once of what our children would remember as their childhood activities … I say this because I see the children’s interest fast changing pace with the changing pace of a new face of a fancier gadget every six months. Would they remember their childhood with the same passion that we do ours? Would they cherish these memories with the same longing we do? And this is a question that I leave to you, my dear reader.

Alice in Blogger-Land


My first interaction with the fascinating world of blogging was through my friend and ex-colleague Raza Ahmad who had initiated his blog on wordpress and I used to get SO amazed at how he ever finds the time to work fulltime, manage his very active social life in addition to ‘writing articles’, my first take on his very regular blogging.  Little did I know that my orientation was to grow more with time and that the world of blogging and those of the bloggers is fascinating, addictive and a whole lot more! This post is just to give you an idea of what it is out there, from someone who has just stepped in this wonderland only recently.

So what is a blog in the first place? It’s a contraction of the term ‘weblog’ and is a type of ‘website’ that is either maintained by an individual, a group of like-minded people or even organizations.  Many blogs are ‘theme-specific’ and provide commentary and articles on related topics while others can just be online ‘diaries’ of individuals.  A typical blog would have narrative, images and might even have links to other related sites.  What makes a blog more interesting is the nature of interaction with its reader: you can leave a ‘comment’ to share with the author what you feel about their post. Some blogs provide help and advice to those in similar circumstances and serve as discussion boards for key topics such as parenting. According to an Economist article, quoting Mr. Bhatia who helped start hotmail, ‘Just as everybody has an e-mail account today, everybody will have a blog in five years’.  Need I say more…

Blogs come in all shapes and sizes.  The collective community of all blogs is known as the blogosphere! Yes, it has a life of its own indeed, with its own set of vocabulary, search engines and the networks that connect the proud citizens of the Blogger-Land. Blogging is also termed as the easiest, fastest and the cheapest ‘publishing’ tool ever. There are personal blogs that are maintained by individuals, and are perhaps the most common kind.  Then there are corporate blogs that are likely run by businesses, and then there are blogs by genre or types:  travel, fashion, musical and ofcourse the rather widely known photoblogs.  And then, lo and behold, there is even something called a moblog, a blog that is maintained via your mobile phone!!!! I even read a term ‘blooks’, books from blogs, and cheekily enough, there is a Blooker Prize for the popular books!!!

The west has experienced the strength of blogs in their political and public lives and there have been numerous studies and research to analyze how this medium is increasingly becoming popular with the masses.  International media such as the CNN uses stories from readers/users who can upload their stories on the IReport link.

Blogging in Pakistan has seen an upward surge in popularity with the educated elite, with mushroom growth of many blogs in the last couple of years.  Sites such as the wordpress have made it easier for upcoming bloggers to have their personal space only a click away.  The scribe is but a prime example of the same! Of late, DAWN group of newspapers in Pakistan has also initiated its own blog space and a recent article on a subject as popular and controversial as the blackwater can attract as many as 77 comments! Alternate media is definitely here to stay!  

Some skeptics might argue exercising caution in maintaining your own blog, as prospective employers might at some stage check your cyber content and may not accept your candidature as ‘appropriate’ based on your opinions cited freely and publicly earlier on.   Bloggers of the world, beware! Your blog is now officially the window to your soul! Others might even question how much of cyber footprint are we willing to leave behind anyways, as the cyber social networks experience an exponential growth and as users increasingly become wary of over populated social networks. 

There is increasing skepticism over the role of mainstream media and how our national media is increasingly resigning to promoting catfights among politicians and fuelling fights and grudges by highlighting pedantic issues with a potential to create disharmony among provinces (recent case of disagreement over citing of Eid moon is a case in point).  So while we ponder over the importance of responsible journalism, perhaps it is also prudent to start thinking about the importance of responsible blogging as well. News, especially in a medium which is one’s ‘personal space’ and therefore can encompass biased opinions, false or inaccurate information, can also spread like wildfire.  The domino effect of links and cross-links can be just as misleading on blogosphere as anywhere else. Granted that your blog is your personal space, but does that give an individual the right to air their opinion on any subject? In this age of information, and perhaps information overload, how does one go about ‘filtering’ the ‘right’ information?  What remains ‘right’ in such an information-clutter anyways?

In the current crisis it is all the more important to share the image of an enlightened Pakistan, while all the others hear about are Taliban, widespread corruption, disasters and the ongoing conflict in the country.  Our blogs must reflect our sense of responsibility towards building a better image for the country in these stressful times, highlight the earnest efforts of the few among us who still upload the sense of patriotism closer to their hearts. As Raza Rumi points out, ‘Fighting intolerance and forces of retrogression is of prime importance in these troubled times and nobody can do it for us. We will have to undertake this Jihad – albeit of another variety – ourselves!’. 

There are two blogs that I would refer to my readers, who are doing their bit towards a more aware Pakistan:  Dr Awab Alvi’s Teeth Maestro and Faisal Kapadia’s Deadpanthoughts.  They are prominent among Pakistani bloggers for their genuine writing style and candid disposition. The duo has recently launched a podcast, a web-based media production so to speak, with a tongue-in-cheek name, ‘The Laidback Show’.  I suggest you watch it on this link, as it opens new horizons to the alternate media in Pakistan.  A candid, casual, open discussion focusing on the online community in Pakistan, its informal style making it most watchable….Not a single dull moment indeed! Although they can definitely improve on the sound quality and perhaps even on the duration of the episode itself.  From what I can tell from the site they have received raving reviews already and there is great excitement on the second show, which is hopefully uploaded tonight! The Laidback Show only reinforces the belief that the social networks and interactions are only to grow, hopefully stronger and with a focus that gives a new gateway to the world into Pakistan: the land of promise.  The show, due to its online presence and the medium of language, has the potential to reach out to the world and perhaps play its role in changing global perspective about the country.

I hope this post has given a fair roundup of the blogging 101 for Pakistan…that is, if you have had the patience to make it all the way down here! I am remembering Star Trek’s opening lines as they seem very apt for the Blogger-Land in which I am still trying to find my way around…

 ….the final frontier….to explore strange new worlds…to seek out new life and new civilizations…to boldly go where no man has ever gone before.

The ever expanding social networks in cyberspace: Devil’s in the detail!


Way back in the early 90s, we were lucky enough to have one of the first few internet access in the country, courtesy my dad and his love for technology. I remember me and my brother would stay up late at night, learning and exploring the very interesting ‘internet’, and may I remind you that we were using windows earlier version which was not as easy as your Explorer these days. We would thrive on the sound of our modem connecting, and at a stage had even mastered the art of distinguishing a ‘good’ connection from a ‘bad’ one with the mere sound of the modem’s ‘tring tring screeeeeeeech….’. We had to patiently wait for all the pictures to be downloaded before we were able to view the full page. I recall my first interaction with a social networking tool, the mIRC (internet relay chat) which seemed fascinating at that time (and utter waste of time now that you think of it). We were the true mIRC ‘cheetahs’ as we engaged in discussions with random mIRC users, shared secret NUI details with other Pakistani friends of other unsuspecting users (and I am not explaining this! mIRC followers in Pakistan will chuckle after reading this!) and little did we know that this was just the beginning of the soon to explode social networking order in the years to follow…

There was myspace that I never used so am not qualified to comment on it. Then came along Orkut I believe, but for me it soon frizzled out. It was too public for my taste and I did not appreciate realllllly random people and their request for ‘fraandship’. That’s when my sister sent me an invitation for facebook. Ah!

Facebook has seen an exceptionally fast growth in the number of its users, and perhaps a matching growth in its support: for and against! There is a strong number of facebook users who use it quite religiously, updating every single event, thought and questions that pop up in their mind. The question ‘whats on your mind’ is taken quite literally in this case. It is because of such users that I have started thinking twice before I update my own status, lest I sound like one of them!!!! On the other extreme are the users who believe so strongly in the conspiracy theories that they literally deactivated their accounts, lest the Zionist lobby captures their family photos, because ofcourse the ‘forces out there’ would be interested to know how many cousins they have, how many vacations they have taken in a year, what is their favourite colour, and of late, how many Farmville animals they are collecting! While some suspicions maybe correct, a little caution can always help: you do not need to add applications as they indicate that the information can be used by third parties, and also you can always have separate friends list to ensure that people only have access to information to the extent you would like it to be shared!

We also need to define facebook etiquettes, the extent to which one must comment on one’s family members facebook status and this specially holds true for husband-wife and people in a relationship. I have witnessed husband-wife getting into a row, which was very amusing at that point in time but perhaps not-so-funny to the couple in question. I have also seen people stating weird statements after what seems like a very apparent breakup or just-about-to-break-up! Events like these have started taking a toll on atleast my interest in facebook and I am increasingly losing interest. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I am able to stay in very regular contact with friends who I don’t get to meet regularly and with family and extended family. I have also recently started using it to share my blog posts, and to give the devil its due, the majority of my blog traffic is diverted from facebook! I should hardly complain!

Information sharing has so far been one of the greatest usage of facebook and one gets to interact with like-minded people. Of late, a lot of political parties have started using it to disseminate information about their political mandates, and then ofcourse there is the flip side of the coin: attacking the opponent political parties and their leaders! Then ofcourse, there are other groups that act like a support group for writers, poets and even potential chefs! Sometimes it is a great way to share live personal events: My brother and I used to update pictures and videos from my sisters wedding to her wedding group on a daily basis, literally until the wee hours of the morning, to share the events with family all over the world. I was most amused to ignore requests from random, and I mean really random people, who wanted to join the group! Why would anyone want to be Abdullah Deewana beats me?! Speaking of weddings, there is an increasing trend of rishta seeking aunties actively checking out potential girls on the facebook, putting two potential candidates in contact with each other via this very active social media. Long gone are the days when your father would jump at the idea of emailing back an interested boy, nowadays parents email each other and share email addresses and facebook IDs of two potential candidates. The world is changing indeed!

As I was learning more about facebook, along came Twitter. Now that’s one tool I have yet to get comfortable with, but its amazing the extent of which one can share information with others with a single ‘tweet’, the twitter term for a message. It has a whole new vocabulary that takes time for one to adjust. What is most amazing however is that there are politicians such as Marvi Memon who are active twitters, there are media personalities like Faisal Qureshi and Naveen Naqvi who keep you informed of their programmes, give you food for thought on various current issues in addition to many other newspapers, news channels, NGOs, development agencies and others. Naveen Naqvi’s show, ‘Breakfast at Dawn’ has even promoted upcoming bloggers by interviewing them and even reads out comments if you happen to ‘tweet’ them at the right time! Lo and behold, even Karan Johar is on twitter as I recently discovered!!! I thought it was hilarious but apparently it is even ‘signed off’ as an ‘authentic site’.

Much has been written on this subject, but today I focussed on my experiences and observations on the ever-increasing social networking tools. For those of you who are keen to read more, you may wish to check out this website that details out all you ever needed to know about all the currently available social media! I was also most amused to read this other article on one of my favourite blogs, Deadpanthoughts and I hope you enjoy reading it just as much as I did. I am intentionally not commenting on the bloggers’ community as I am saving that for another post! However needless to say, blogging is the new way of social networking, media reporting and communication, posting your footprints on the cyberspace. I am just a newbie in this community but I love maintaining my own blog, receiving feedback and to hear what others feel or think about what I write.

Just as I finished writing this post, I received another invitation to join something called DotSpots. Is it time already to shift to yet another social media? And more importantly, how much cyber footprint are we willing to leave behind as we grow and glow in the ever-expanding social space? Personally I am growing wary of over-exposure in the cyber world. That is, until I find another cyber-activity to engage me and my energies!