Talking about the boom in social networking has become more or less a cliche. First it was the blossoming of a truly globalized society with seemingly no boundaries. Then the success stories of lost and found connections. When we’d had our fill of those, suddenly everything was going “viral”. Now, it is the recriminations from privacy issues. How much should one share online? How is this information protected? Who will have access to it? And, perhaps most ostensibly, will it come back to haunt us later?
Welcome to the era of Social Networking. With the explosion in technological advancements, communication the world over has transformed and morphed into an almost uncontrollable entity. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are the leaders of the pack, but there is a plethora of social networking sites that cater to every persuasion – from the commonplace such as book-lovers (www.weread.com and http://www.shelfari.com/) to the slightly more obscure such as knitters and crocheters (https://www.ravelry.com/account/login).
Social media has proliferated modern life to such an extent, that one would be considered behind the times if it were not some part of their lives. It has changed the way we connect to each other, and it influences the way we share information about ourselves, as well as about the world around us at large. If you’re not on Facebook, I don’t want to know you. I don’t know how to know you. If you don’t use Twitter, you’re really missing out on a particular slice of life. The one that comes in 140 characters (or less) and randomly dropped vowels, of course. And if at least 50 people aren’t following your every inane action, you are seriously alienated from the rest of the human race. What began as a great way to stay connected has now almost become a threat to discretion and privacy. Facebook has recently been in hot water over a security breach that enables users to ‘spy’ on their friends’ private chat messages (just supposing that there’s anything private left to chat about after all that information sharing).
That aside, there’s still much to be said about social media. World events such as the current general elections in the UK are being touted as the first in the age of Social Media, where parties vied for garnering votes of the media-savvy citizens. In an example of a story going viral, there was the minor ruckus over Nick Clegg, with twitterers using #nickcleggsfault generously! David Cameron’s now infamous Twitter comment, live on radio is one for the archives.
If politics is not your thing, don’t despair. There is no dearth of interesting, quirky, weird, and wonderful ideas floating around in cyber space. In case you missed it at the end of last year, there’s Romeo the cat that raises money for animal causes. Of course, Romeo’s got his own homepage. We could actually go on until all known species have been covered, but you get the picture.
We could begin to rationalize the power of social media by saying that human beings are social animals, and the need to link ourselves to our fellow beings is inherent in our psyche. Honing in on this basic human need, companies are providing innovative methods of communication. There is no doubt that the online community is becoming ever more connected day by day.
Advancements in web technology, as well as mobile and web interaction make it possible for people to stay connected at all times. No wonder that any notable event is reported and spreads like wildfire all over the globe. Information disseminated faster than the speed of light can only be a good thing, one might argue, but the question is what type of information. There is no doubt that the web has given each of us a voice; a voice that can be heard by anyone and everyone. However, when privacy issues come to the fore, social networking has still a few lessons to learn before skeptics can warm to the full package wholeheartedly. Until then, some of us will just stick to sending emails to people we actually know rather than write open diaries to all and sundry.
Author:- Naweed Chougle regularly blogs on topbits about computers, technology and their impact on the world. TopBits.com offers over 3,000 pages of information about the Internet, electronics, programming and everything in between – from VLAN to Xbox Live codes. You can reach Naweed at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.