It is not uncommon to frequently hear people debating on the passivity that social media are bringing in our society. Many people even believe that technology has penetrated so deeply into our lives that gradually face-to-face communication will be obsolete reducing human interaction to nothing but cubicles and computers. Most of us must have pondered these issues many a time. But is it really true that social media is just a passive engagement when the society has accepted social networking so lovingly that websites like Facebook are all set to touch the humongous 1 billion users mark by August 2012?
Social media has indeed become a great success because the contours of social communication have changed rapidly in the last decade. Now, social media has almost become a necessity both at an individual level and also for businesses. The level to which social media engages us to other people is quite subjective. It generally depends on an individual. For most of us, even though our family members and close friends are on Facebook, we rarely miss a chance to meet them physically. So, for such networks of people, who are really close to our hearts, it is indeed not possible that Facebook or any other social media website can limit our interaction to just online chats (passive engagement). However, there will always be several people who are just our acquaintances and with whom we may not have deeper connections. With them, even a casual connection on Facebook is indeed great. It is a part and parcel of the current world, where networking and connections can often work in our favor, especially in times of need.
The issue of passive engagement through social media arises mainly because of people who believe it to be the ultimate form of communication, barring all other forms of interaction. Generally, passivity steps in when a person starts taking online communication as the most valuable form of interaction and ignores several other forms of communication. An individual may be logged in for 24 hours on Facebook, hiding behind a computer and secretly noting what others are doing in their lives. Such cases are examples of addictive personalities where more than necessary usage of the Internet, leads to several psychological issues. But that is generally not the normal trend. Most of us have a live of our own. Most of us use social media with our fair sense of judgment limiting its usage to remain in touch with distant friends and for purely professional reasons.
Another major trend that is apparent on social media websites and which is certainly annoying is the passive aggressive behavior of some members. Right from a breakup to myriads of painful experiences, there are some people who just can’t resist the temptation to update their statuses frequently. While meaningful updates from a person’s life are worth knowing, it often becomes irritating to witness behaviors that characterize obsession with the self-accompanied by negative feelings. Moreover, there is another group of people who feel delighted to comment under anonymous names, often mocking a work of art or the creator. Then there are some other who makes sure that they ‘Like’ ‘n’ number of social causes, even without having done anything for even a single cause. It is one of the classic examples of passive engagement on social media.
Social media has indeed given us tremendous benefits, both economically and socially. However, it has also created the illusion that being connected to the world of information and instant messages, we are connected to everyone and we know everything, when the situation is exactly the opposite. Atomism and isolation are being cited to be the biggest challenges of the urban world and it is for us to ponder that if social media has wired us so much into each other, why are we getting squeezed into our own created shells in the metro cities? To conclude, we must remember that social media is just another tool to enrich our live. The responsibility of using it to our benefits rests on our shoulders. Indeed, social media is not passive or active; it is our way of using it that makes all the difference.