By Anirudh Madhavan:
Once upon a time, devoid of cyberspace, was a bird that dared to tweet out his emotions which were deftly interpreted by eager ornithologists. Well if you still cling on to those times, then I’m sorry to say, you’re just an invalid in modern times. What’s that? You don’t even have a Facebook account? How do people recognize you? Poor you, I must say. The human fascination with social networking sites in no passing fad. It came, it saw and it most certainly conquered.
Created in 2006, Twitter has grown to elephantine proportions with a whopping 190 million monthly visits. The basic idea is to empower the individual to express his feelings to a group of people through the internet – using 140 characters. Another site which has gained immense popularity is Facebook. This social networking site was created to help people all across the globe to rediscover their long lost friends and acquaintances and to establish new relations.
I’d like to enlist some of the factors to which the success of these sites can be attributed. Imagine the scenario – After a grueling day at office, there’s no better way to unwind than to go for a dip in a virtual pool or to grow some crops on Farmville or to blow up a mob in mafia wars. The online profile of a person is somehow linked to his self worth and the number of ‘friends’ he has helps balloon his self esteem. Sarcasm aside, it really does help people find long estranged friends and co-workers. It does provide the average person with a platform to voice his (however insignificant sometimes) opinion on different personal, global and local issues. People do get to know new people and interact with them (however circumscribed these relations may be). Another interesting aspect that helps twitter score points is the fact that a person can become a ‘follower’ of a celebrity and can get insights into their personal lives (how ‘cool’). I came across a ‘tweet’ of a famous actress which said — ‘shooting over, have a headache, will drink coffee’- this minutia amassed a huge response among fans. If the world ever descends into anarchy and a dictator should arise, according to Twitter, it should be Lady Gaga. These were the plus points of these sites (though still served with an ample dose of sarcasm).
Now let’s move on to the negatives — there are several health issues related to using the internet for more than a limited period of time. Some of these include depression, obesity, vision impairment and mental addiction. People become oblivious to the outside world, the real world. I have a friend who rushes home from college and logs on to his profile to deepen his friendship with people he hasn’t even met and in the process, fails to give any attention to his real life family. The effects of these sites aren’t confined to a particular individual as was proven by the ban imposed on Facebook by Pakistan and our loss of a minister in Shashi Tharoor due to his online spat with former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi. People end up losing their grip on reality and seek refuge in a virtual world which provides them with a space which is public and personal at the same time.
The only way to cure this dominance of such sites on our minds is to use them in moderation and to always remind ourselves of the fact that outside the computer screen lays a world that is affected minimally by anything we do in cyberspace. Common sense should prevail at all times and people should not let their lives be dictated by a little blue bird (it’s not even yellow like the original Tweety). The recently conducted 24 hour ‘Facebook Fast’ was an innovative and crucial idea which encouraged people to take a break from social media and told them to get out of their houses and meet people who actually mean something to them in real life. While I do appreciate the positives of these sites, I would have to be blind and deaf to not notice that the negatives outweigh the positives by a huge margin. Well I just hope I made my point and convinced at least a handful of people to minimize their online time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to tweet about this article. Adios. [Do let us know what you think. Drop in a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to tweet us @YouthKiAwaaz] 😉
The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.