By Gunjan Sharma:
Riya kapoor, like many others, had her first day in college today. She was not at all nervous and in fact, was all set and ready to enter a new phase of her life. After all, she knew the people she was going to meet there. She already knew her ‘new’ friends through ‘Orkut’.
Aryan Mehra and his friends have to submit a joint science project. But they are not worried at all. And this is because they are going to be in touch throughout the evening and shall work together to complete their task in time. They all have their own community on ‘Facebook’.
Sonali Gupta all of 13, has just logged into her Orkut account and has started chatting with boys of higher age groups. These boys are not even aware that the identity that girl was showing was not correct. Sonali is just desperate for the company and has found a perfect solution.
Mayank Sinha has just completed his record of adding the 500th friend to his friend list. Congratulations to him on his achievement. But does he actually know them at all? “Who cares?” says Mayank. He’s happy that he has the maximum number of friends in his list as compared to his other school friends.
Welcome to the world of ‘social networking’. Until sometime back, social networking was just a mere word. But the transition from just being a ‘word’ to becoming a ‘world’ has been phenomenal. You truly have to be a part of any such network to understand it. Oops! Understand it? Yes, because this world has far too many complexities.
Gone are the days when the social networking sites Facebook, Orkut, My Space, etc. had the feel of an exclusive club. What you just needed, was a college e-mail address to join. So for its young users, there wasn’t much chance of a parent crashing their party. Since 2006, the site has been open to everyone and made accessible. This did not come as surprise to many as this was expected with a large target audience in the age group of 13 and above, more and more people, especially teenagers ,are getting hooked up to these sites and they are crazy to take a dip in this vast ocean of social networking.
Jerry Almeida, the founder of , Indian Confederation of NGOs’ says “Internet and more specifically the social networking sites are the new age media. Thus, it appeals more to teenagers and youth and influences the youngsters the maximum. For them, such sites provide a perfect interface for the interaction with a mixed group of people worldwide”. The major reason why teenagers get into social networking is either peer-pressure or to simply be in sync with the fashion or trend of doing Orkuting, chatting, etc. The sheer fear of being left out drives more people into this social networking business.
Prachi Sharma, a first year student at IP University says” All my friends are there on Orkut and if I hadn’t joined it, I would have been out of the group”. Peer pressure is one reason and the need for making new friends is another. Most teenagers today have access to their friends, 24 x 7, which means that there is never any respite from peer pressure.
Since teenagers are the most influenced by social networking, it becomes even more necessary for their guardians or parents to make them realize that their safety comes first. Chatting within groups and in groups is absolutely harmless. But becoming friends with people you don’t even know is like shooting your own privacy with a gun.
The debate whether Orkut, Facebook, My Space etc. are good or bad cannot be decided by any individual or any group. People use such sites differently as per their differences in their personality. For some, social networking came in as a blessing. While many who lost their schools and college mates, got reunited with them through these sites. There have also been many cases where friends who were not in touch for more than 12 years, got in touch with their friends. Ms. Kajori who works with the Indian Express in Lucknow got in touch with her friend Deepika a Software Engineer in Delhi almost after 12 years. It was within three months of establishing their contacts that the two friends dined together in Delhi. Says Kajori,” I was fortunate to have registered with the Orkut and it was a fun meeting Deepika my college mate after 12 years. Adds Deepika,”I did not even imagine that we would meet and dine together so quick, just within three months.”
Senior or Older people got re-united with their school friends once again and happy memories surrounded them every time they logged on. For others, it was a perfect medium to find likeminded people, people who shared the same interest as them, joined same communities, made it a platform to share ideas. But for many others, it was a medium to deceive, lie and to cheat. And for the rest, just time pass. The inspiration of creating social networking sites came in with the advancement in technology. And it brought with it the present day ‘ Cyber culture’. Digital media have never had such an enormous appeal. Teenagers just need friends and the Internet is their everyday hangout zone. Sharing of photos, audios, videos, texts etc. had never been so easy. But, the bottom line remains that is it safe? Is it all authentic? And who takes guarantee if anything goes wrong?
The other side of social networking is that it is laboring under the inescapable weight of the dot- com curse: one has to find the money. No matter how big and cool one’s idea is , it cannot succeed without an actual business plan. Look at blogging- that has dominated the web world-which seems like a neat idea dependent on interest, but without a concrete revenue stream, it is difficult to manage it.
Neverthless, social networking connects people at low cost: this can also be beneficial for entrepreneurs and small businesses who are seeking to expand their contact base. These networks often act as a customer relationship management tool for companies selling products and services. As Jerry Almeida points out,” The use of social networking sites depends entirely on the individual. It’s a blessing in disguise if we look at it from the development point of view. It’s extremely cost effective and has an enormous reach to the people. And thus can be very effective tool for social welfare.” He adds,” Everything has a downside too. So if it’s not used properly then becomes a curse automatically.”
Social networking is an addiction. And if we sit down to analyze it then one question that comes to everyone’s mind is that can the world survive without it? “ Social networking is not like mobile phones- a necessity. It is not the only medium to stay in touch with people. Cyber media also includes e-mails and chats etc and even they are equally useful- in fact, better. Social networking is like a “.com” boom and people glued to it says,’ I am all for it’. All that is required, is a positive perception of an individual using it.
Today, social networks services are increasingly being used in legal and criminal investigations and information posted on sites such as My Space and Facebook are being used by police and officials of different departments. There have also been some cases of content posted on My Space that has been court. Further sites like Facebook are increasingly being used by school administration and law enforcements agencies as a source of evidence against student users.
The world has never been black or white. Its shade has always been Grey. And grey is the colour for social networks as well. It’s neither all good nor all bad. All it requires, is discretion and understanding as to where to draw the line.