Are you on facebook? Add me, okay? My id is Super Brat.
In the 21st century, it is hard to imagine a person whose life isn’t touched by the internet. We use internet for various purposes : for knowing stuff, for getting in touch with our friends, colleagues, for sending and receiving emails and much more. Out of all the services provided by internet, social networking sites are used the most. The most popular ones being Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Ibibo etc.
The first social networking site that came into existence was SixDegrees.com in 1997. It allowed users to create profiles and list their friends.
Facebook came into existence in 2004, founded by Mark Zuckerberg and from that day onwards there has been no turning back.
Facebook changed the face of social networking sites, allowed it’s users to create account, add friends and share photos, videos, songs and everything from their day to day life. Connecting with old friends, colleagues, acquaintances in and out of country got so much easier. The world started to become a small virtual place. The time taken to gain 50 million users by radio was 38 years and for facebook, it was merely 5 months. This is the power of social networking sites. Being a member of these sites is considered cool. Imagine,Steven Fry has more twitter followers than the readers of The Times and The Independent combined.
Now, once we know of the tremendous power of these websites, lets take a look at their pros and cons.
These sites allow people to create new relationships, reconnect with old friends, distant family members and hence increase communication and strengthen the relationships.
These are easy on pocket for we can send text messages,chat, share pictures for free. All we need is an internet connection. We can use these sites to propagate our ideas and spread awareness. For example, we can create pages or communities to spread awareness. Celebrities, singers, bands and other famous people use these sites to stay in touch with their fans, tell them about their recent concerts and also take feedback from them.
Another advantage of these sites is that we can share necessary information among a group of people, for eg we can create groups and share the news with everyone at the same time.Some social networking sites actually help you in your search for a suitable job. LinkedIn is a very successful site where employees can go through your profile and get people suitable for the required job. Social media can be a powerful tool for social change and an alternative to more traditional ways of communication.
In June 2009, during the Iranian election protests, the protestors used Twitter to circumvent the government control over phones and the media. The role of Twitter became so important that US State Department asked Twitter to delay a network upgrade that would have taken the website offline. The ability to remain anonymous protected people who were spreading information in real time.
A teenager spends an average of nine hours per week on social networking sites. These sites entice people to spend more time online in the virtual world,making virtual friends rather than doing something productive. Some people are not aware that the information they post online is public,i.e. anyone can view it. The deleted photos and texts can be retrieved, making users vulnerable. These websites accumulate data about people and sell it to advertisers. These sites save cookies on the user’s computer and keep track of sites visited. This is gross violation of privacy.
Since, it is very easy to create an account, one can become a victim of identity theft. Anyone can use any name as their user id.
When we send or receive messages, these sites don’t scan the content for viruses, hence it is easier to spread virus using these sites, thus making security attacks easier. Addicted to these sites, people have a tendency to use them while in office. This reduces the productivity and leads to loss in revenue.
A Feb 2009 report stated that social networking sites were costing UK businesses an estimated $ 12.5 (US) billion annually.
As a result of increased usage of these sites, people spend less time with having face to face interaction.This can result in communication gap and hence spoil the relations.
Excessive usage of these sites has lead to decrease in real conversations. There is increase in number of personality and brain disorders. Cyberbullying- a type of bullying that occurs online, is on an increase. A 2009 study found that 17.3 percent of middle school students have been victims of cyberbullying. The victims experience drop in grades, self-esteem and go into depression.These sites have been used to hack profiles and use people’s personal information to defame them. Profile stalkers can develop a compulsive disorder.
Thus, we have seen, with the positives, come the negatives. Properly used, these sites can prove to be a boon for networking, getting in touch with your loved ones and maintaining important contacts. One should be careful and not get too intimate with a stranger and not disclose personal information to them. We need to regulate the time we spend on these sites and ensure that the time spent is for something worthwhile.