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   Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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Caught in the net
By Sushant Sharma



Social networking websites like Facebook have captured the attention of the younger generation. Little surprise that the youth of today likes to meet and greet friends on the web than in real life.

The Facebook revolution has spawned a new generation for which the virtual world is the real world. Social networking sites have become a necessity to many youngsters, for some as vital as food, water and air.

Founded in Feb 2004, Facebook has already more than 600 million active users worldwide as of January 2011, making its founder Mark Zuckerberg, one of the youngest billionaire in the world. Popular amongst teenagers the most, Facebook is one such site where people tend to spend most of the time than anywhere else on the internet. The repercussions of this phenomenon even temporarily eclipsed the mighty Google in terms of popularity worldwide. Facebook is now in over 207 countries and is valued upward of 25 billion dollars. The story is so inspiring that it has a book and a feature film made on it.

Today, Facebook has become the place to interact, chat, educate, play, do business or simply to chill out.

A study has found out that 85% of the college students worldwide are registered to Facebook and are active users. But the question that arises is that why an average teenager spends more time on Facebook than on any other site.

In India, the Facebook phenomenon caught up a few years after Orkut beame popular. But slowly it overshadowed Orkut as Facebook became one of the URL that was in the favourite list of every teenager’s internet browser. In our minds, Facebook can be compared to a popular hangout spot where one hangs out with friends in real life.

So in essence, your socialising never stops.

All these features to share your updates, photos, web links and even friends make Facebook dangerously addictive. Even when you sign out and turn off your desktop, there is a lingering part of you that is still attached to the net and wants to get back to it, to check out what’s going on with friends and groups.

Since our social network has virtually entered our living rooms, we hardly have any reason to stay away from it. There are no goodbyes from friends anymore.

Some may argue that being in constant touch with our social network is a good thing. But teenagers nowadays barely give any time to family. Sitting around the dining table, having food with family, an average teenager will still have his mind on his profile page.

With the advent of 3G services on cell phones, one can access the net on mobile handsets, so now that same teenager can be seen punching buttons on his cell phone under the dining table while he finishes his meal and then rush back to the desktop afterwards to continue his online conversations.

Its common knowledge that spending more time in front of the screen raises problems on health front. With youngsters staying shut indoors and being glued to computer screens most of the time, problems like poor eyesight and obesity is fast becoming common amongst middle-class Indian teenagers.

For many kids the virtual world has become the real world. They ‘live’ more on the net than in real life. Some prefer to even meet up and chat with their friends through the net even if the friend in question is a neighbour. This gives rise to whole new problem. With the advent of social networking websites, many teenagers are not as socially spontaneous in person as compared to their socialising skills on the net.

On Facebook a person will be very warm and elaborate with his greetings with stranger but when put face to face with a new person, that same person can barely manage a smile and grunt a simple ‘hi’

The other implication that’s related to the social networking phenomenon is that these days when you meet someone for the first time and talk, you later go on Facebook, search them, add them as your friend and start digging into their personal stuff. So the next time when you meet the person, you know a hell lot about them already. The likelihood is that you may end up acting like a stalker.

According to a survey of 219 students, those who said they use Facebook have grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.5 and study for 1 to 5 hours per week. Conversely, non-Facebook users have GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0, and study 11 hours or more per week.

Maybe the world would be a better place if we just went back to the way things were, where you meet people and you get to know them by spending time with them, not just by looking up their profiles on the internet.

According to a survey of 219 students, those who said they use Facebook have grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.5 and study for 1 to 5 hours per week. Conversely, non-Facebook users have GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0, and study 11 hours or more per week.

Interestingly another study found that 79 percent of Facebook users believe that it has no impact on their academic performance. However with an iPod blaring on one side, cell phone buzzing with text message, Facebook page open on the computer screen and off to the side an open textbook can hardly be called studying.

Until recently, social networking through sites such as Facebook and MySpace was seen as a pursuit of young people. Nowadays, social networking is gaining acceptance among all demographics. A recent report stated that the growth of microblogging site Twitter is being fuelled by middle-aged and seasoned workers. Various companies and enterprises have their own Facebook pages nowadays and their employees too have to join in. Some of the parents have an entirely another objective of joining Facebook: to keep a tab on their children’s social structure.

Facebook has also been seen as an ‘unsafe’ way of socialising. Questions have been raised that the safety of user accounts has been compromised several times. However Facebook has settled a lawsuit regarding claims over source code and intellectual property. Still the lawsuit has planted seeds of doubt in the minds of millions.

Public domains are viable to security threats from hackers. But the fact that users on Facebook are so open with their information attracts more people to hack into. Also Facebook entices people to become stalkers.

Social networking was always considered a different branch of socializing. But Facebook has merged the virtual socializing with personal socializing, bringing our understanding of social structure to a whole new level.

Facebook is a ‘revolution’ that has taken over lives with incredible speed. Like all phenomenal revolutions, there will be people who will like it and there will be people who will not accept it. For some concerned persons Facebook will remain ‘unethical’ and still many others will term it as ‘cool’.

But whatever the terms attached to it, Facebook is here to stay. Till the fickle minded adolescents find better alternative online or offline.

Sushant Sharma  |  sushant91@gmail.com

Sushant Sharma is a college fresher and an avid reader.

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