21 December 2009

Online social networking - a boon or bane?

Despite being in the software field (which means that I'm net-savvy), I'm a bit of a slouch when using online social networking sites. Part of the reason being that I'm wary of chatting with people I've never seen before. The other reason being that I'm a working professional who loves to keep busy during office hours and switch off the computer when I'm home. Of course, having been married early and off the dating/finding mates market meant that the sites held no special lure for me. Due to the above reasons I joined the Orkut and Facebook bandwagon pretty late. Infact, I was so put off by the deluge of 'friendship' offers on Orkut by unknown people that I went into online social hibernation for quite some time. A couple of friends had to literally coerce me into opening a Facebook account as they had shared some photo albums on it. Why? Well, here's the reason.

I quote here from an article I read on the web - "Facebook is a narcissistic distraction from daily life. It provides a cross between the mindless absorption of the TV set and the obsessive self-involvement of the bathroom mirror." End of quote. The minutia of the status updates, games, photos, videos etc. on Facebook gives one a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of countless, faceless friends on the web. The life patterns of people, whom we've known as our childhood friends or classmates, become predictable, and to some extent, pathetic. Familiarity breeds contempt they say and I agree that the mystery that is maintained through writing old-fashioned letters or even email to pen-pals beats the familiarity bred of online friendship. Catching up with long-lost friends over phone, or in person, is far more soul stirring than meeting up over Facebook or online chat rooms. This is the reason I seldom keep in touch with my closest friends over these channels.

No matter how many people claim the success story of their love lives to such networking sites, lets face the fact that these sites were basically created so that the average romance-hungry, lonely netizen can escape into the cyber world and search for his/her soulmate. For this purpose maybe, these channels are a God-send, although I've my doubts. However, for networking and friendships, the amount of information churned out is humongous! Why would I want to know what the family of my nursery schoolmate looks like? The information overload brought on by having to remember so many faces(family of online friends), significant dates, details of who is traveling where and who is going through which crisis or turmoil must surely take a toll on the functioning of our brain.

Also, the amount of time spent on these sites is phenomenal. If we add up the time spent by all the teenagers, college-going students, working professionals, every person seeking a mate on the net, the total amount of time spent is mind-boggling. One can't help but think if it could've been put to a better, more honorable purpose. And think of the cost of the network bandwidth or even employees' time spent on the net during office hours. We are definitely losing a lot due to this. Do the advantages of these sites really outweigh the disadvantages?


Nilu said...

A friend suggested that I should join Twitter. It has less information-overload as there is a limit to how much you can type in a single tweet. I've joined that lately to try it out.

Veena said...

Well written article.. Social networking has been a touchy topic for me too.. And I too believe that the beauty of a human touch and personal contact cannot be achieved thru any social networking site.

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