Mar 18, 2010

Socializing the Net

Social media should improve your life, not become your life!
Patrick Driessen
Of all the different roles that the Internet played, Social Networking gripped popular imagination in a vice.
A term that has entered the lexicon of many boardroom debates and pantry gossips, social networking is an equalizer. It enabled people who were shy in real life, become virtual extroverts.
Tracing its evolution, the earliest entrant; Orkut used to be my kind of networking, because it was simple, no fuss and very uncluttered. Privacy and rampant misuse was a major concern, but it has cleaned itself up pretty nice.
Its much younger cousin Facebook, was in comparison much more cluttered and confusing. It took a very long time for me to get it round my head.

But I soon realized that like in any thing else, Facebook picked up from where Orkut left.
They had improved security, privacy levels that could be customized and the newer avatar of the site is a lot less cluttered than its predecessor. 
Orkut sparked the fire, but FB (as Facebook is popularly known) fanned it into a phenomena. 

Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace and the such have only cashed into a concept that makes you believe that social networking is as essential as the air you breathe.
I could testify on how profoundly Social Networking has changed my life, but what is more disconcerting is how people are spending more time socializing online than before.
Scrapping, twittering and tagging has become acceptable ways of showing recognition amongst the young and not so young. 
Why don't we just visit our friends or, take the moment to visit people who are less fortunate more often?
Social nuances and etiquette can never be substituted for that 'gift' you give online.

Fights go online too!
I've seen people change their relationship status from 'committed' to 'single' to prove a point and maybe wash the proverbial dirty laundry in full view of your 'buddies'.
Technology has certainly made a lot of lives easier and world is only a wall post, scrap or a tweet away, but where does that leave the good ol' days of letter writing.

Social Networking thrives on our collective love of watching other people live their lives. 
We love Voyeurism. We love to know what is happening, and unconsciously we are constantly vying for more attention. 
We want our 15 posts of fame and we are ready to do anything for it.
But is all this Networking really helping us?
Personally, I believe it does not foster ties with the same warmth and cordiality as when we meet a person face to face. I would prefer talking with a person sans the avatar.
Social Networking has its dark underbelly too, where employers are increasingly turning to popular sites likes Facebook while screening prospective employees. 
Insignificant requests and inundating news feeds end up eating up quality time that could have otherwise helped solidify personal contacts.

Unabated use of technology leads to it's misuse and unless we learn to restrain ourselves and understand that Social Networking is just an aid and not the purpose to live we will continue to see our friends addicted to farming melons, tweeting sweet nothings and scraping their love out.
When the Television was invented, it was said, it will kill the Radio star. I don't think it did. 
Over time, I think it just made the Radio more creative.


Sure, Social Networking has come a long way from the baby steps it took and does allow ties that are weak to strengthen over time besides enabling hitherto hidden opportunities to come our way, however unless we exercise discretion and practice common sense in using this wonderful tool of modern interaction, the day is not too far when we choose Social Networking instead of social living.
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