This week Google announced the shutting down of Orkut, leaving the company with only one pointless social network that nobody uses. Orkut fuelled the lives of millions of young Indians with a shitty internet connection and the announcement split audiences into two halves; one that mocked the existence of the website and the other that reveled in nostalgia about the good old days when you could actually see who was stalking your profile.
I feel like I'm stuck somewhere in the middle. Over the years I have made enough fun of the website and its "orkutiyas", a term that became common parlance to describe someone from a lower socio-economic strata than yours. It was guised with jokes about them being stupid, unable to spell and asking women for "friendship" but lets be clear about what it was. It was a cool social network till all of "us" were on it but became rubbish as soon as it became "mass". We have the same refrain about present day Facebook and Twitter and about how it has become rubbish as soon as celebrities started opening their accounts on it. Unfortunately for Orkut, we could move on to Facebook and Twitter, but we don't really have a major new social network to move on to now that those worlds have collided.
Why Orkut will remain historically important is that almost all of us learnt our social media chops on it. It was a digital, public version of a slambook we used to fill in school. We used public testimonials to add meaning to romantic relationships, trusty ratings to establish our non-creepy credentials and probably learnt to fight with absolute strangers in forums outside of a letter to the editor. It is also probably the only time in history people have been okay with staring at a purple computer screen all day. So while I too make jokes about the IQ of Facebook and Twitter reducing further as Orkut users migrate to these platforms, I don't think I would know how to navigate these waters without Orkut. It is why so many of us look upon it like a childhood toy you discover when you're older. You dust it off, smile, realize you've outgrown it but you still don't feel like throwing it away.
I don't think it would be possible for me to spend time on Orkut again, but I might just before it shuts down in September. If nothing else just to remind myself what it felt like to be on a social network without agencies trying to trend a hashtag all day.