“Hey handsome! How are you? Wanna party . . . let’s catch up soon . . . I am back in town for a couple of days.”
“Hey are you the same girl I met last weekend in the shopping mall? Well, some coincidences are beautiful and our meeting was one amongst them. What say?
“Hi beautiful! How are you? Your smile is so bright it’s good enough to warm up my heart and brighten up the whole room!”
If you have ever been on a social networking website, a conversation like this would not surprise you. Over the past few years, online social networking sites have gained immense popularity with today’s younger generation. Across the world, individual’s login, create fancy profiles; write messages back and forth on these social networks. Through these sites one can keep in touch with their long lost friends and create a social network of friends, professionals, family members and thereby taking the idea of socialization to a virtual level.
Imagine your boss or your relatives, who are a part of your ‘friends list’, happen to read one such message (as written above). Would you be embarrassed if your superiors at work place read your scrap or if your nephew makes a taunting conversation about the same the next time you meet at a family gathering? Or, would you simply put the blame on your friends who wrote that naughty message, making you land into awkward situations?
Whatever might be your viewpoint, one must be cognizant about the various etiquettes that one needs to adhere to while interacting on social networking sites. One needs to clearly draw a line between one’s friends and acquaintances. Do we add friends because of social pressures or we find it hard to decline? Are we comfortable adding our relations, superiors at work place and even our neighbours as a part of our friends’ list? Well, some people like to show-off and boast about the large number of people in their friends’ list, which even includes individuals they don’t know at all; while for others, adding unknown people to their friends’ list would be an invasion of their privacy in cyberspace.
Now, how accessible one wants to be, is one’s personal choice. For a school teacher or college professor it becomes relatively difficult to respond when they receive an add request from their very own students as it gives the students access to more personal information about their professor. But, what if you are quite friendly with your set of students? Wouldn’t it be offensive to decline the friend request on your part?
In face-to-face conversations individuals can be careful about the quantum of personal information they wish to disclose. However, in cyberspace any one can come and take a sneak preview of your profile. There are times when while maintaining a clear distinction between one’s personal and professional life, one may land into socially uncomfortable situations, on social networking websites.
A scarp on a site like ‘Orkut’ is not restricted for your eyes only but can be read by your whole network of friends (unless you take care about checking the new features and changing your privacy settings). A scrap which is a short message or information speaks a lot not only about what’s latest in our social life, but also registers an image of our social life in the eyes of the readers. The authenticity of a person’s individuality is always questionable in such cases because there might be a total contrast of personality in real life.
The conflict and clumsy situations arising out of scraps can be absolutely avoided by having protocols in place that help us come to terms with socialization in cyberspace. It’s not only one’s scraps but also the communities that one may have joined, which give a reflection of one’s like and dislikes in the social circle.
Etiquettes in social networking would help us keep safe. We must be careful of displaying personal information and also remember that there is no yardstick to measure if the information given by someone else is real or not.
The writer is a Mumbai based correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz.