Social Networking: one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Or maybe not… Neil Armstrong might have uttered one of the most impactful lines in history when he first set foot on the moon, but what I am trying to explain here is the fact that it is now social networking in general that has taken over our lives.
You might not agree with this, but let me put across this one question. When you sit in front of your computer or laptop, what is the first thing you check? This was what I had put forth to my teenaged nephew and his group of friends a few weeks ago. And guess what! I was taken aback by a rather loud chorus of “Facebook!” along with a few quiet “Orkut” squeaks. Irrespective of whether it is Orkut, Facebook or even Hi5, the point is, we are all victims of social networking.
Let’s not just fault teenagers for their insatiable urge to socialize virtually, because us adults are no better. I’m reminded of an old friend whose life has literally been taken over by social media, and he strongly believes in speaking his mind. And trust me when I say this, everything he does from the time he wakes up till the time he goes to bed is out there for all to read. Why on earth would you want the world to know about your every move? Isn’t privacy important anymore? For some people, I guess not. Even though most of these social networking websites have built-in features to block unwanted people from viewing your personal information, we tend to not use them. Why? Because some of us find it really cool to brag about all that is happening around us. Moreover, we tend to keep accepting requests from people we don’t even know. Why? That’s because some of us have this weird belief that the more friends we seem to have, the more popular we are in real life. This is especially true with teenagers. So the ‘Friends only’ setting goes right out the window and your personal information becomes available to anyone who’s interested.
It doesn’t end there either; most of these well known sites offer interactive games. Calling these games addictive would be putting it very mildly. They’re in fact more like dope, keeping you hooked for days. Playing the game once or twice during the day is never enough. Each session lasts about an hour at the very least.
The most famous examples, Mafia Wars and Farmville, have you either building up a group of thugs and vieing to be the greatest Facebook Mafia, or busy building a farm on which you need to plough to make money and finally upgrade to a better farm. What’s even better is the fact that you can interact with your virtual environment, right from building a farm, to creating chicken coops, to milking your cows. I plead guilty to having tried both, but it’s not like I’m hooked to these life-sucking games. I know quite a few people who have literally dedicated their lives to such games. Whether at work or back home, the hours that are wasted simply go unaccounted for. Missing a session results in a minor panic attack! Moreover, these games allow users to publish their achievements, so every time they level up, you get an update on your wall. Your once meaningful wall is bombarded with annoying and unnecessary information.
After blocking all the useless updates, I still sound like I’m against social networking as a whole, but that isn’t the case. I know this is a great medium for exchanging thoughts, ideas and even to catch up with new and old friends, but there is a fine line between sharing your thoughts and sharing your private moments. Your friends might take your posts in humour, but that will eventually wear out. And don’t forget, do you want your potential future employer doing a background check and discovering your sole contribution to society is a status update about the color of the underwear you’re wearing today?