Online Networking: Are We Comfortably Connected or Virtually Vulnerable?

 | September 24,2010 05:16 pm IST

In today's IT-driven world, everything is getting compressed in chips and gadgets. Virtually every thing is acquiring a new dimension and definition; be it shopping online sitting in a comfortable chair at your home or pursuing MBA with the knowledge of the world at your disposal through your laptops.

The very social behavior of going to clubs, communities and meetings even is now getting constricted to Internet. In this article, we mainly focus on the increasing effects of the networking sites like Orkut, Facebook, hi5, etc.


The networking sites now provide a free platform for the individual to form his own communities. Not only this, they also help the individual to search their friends and even form virtual groups. These sites are becoming more or less the new icons of virtual societies. Now you no more have to go to the parties or clubs to make contacts, these sites provide a huge network to catch anybody and forge a relationship.


You can also control your network by allowing or blocking somebody you wish and can create an altogether digital profile of yourself that will be seen by others in the way you want them to see. It is going really hot in this era and that's why 61% of the 13-17 year-olds have a personal profile on sites such as MySpace, Friendster, or Orkut. A study says that 14% have actually met face-to-face with a person they had known only through the Internet, 30% have considered meeting someone they've only communicated with online and 71% reported receiving messages online from someone they don't know. People join the sites with their friends and use the different messaging tools to hang out, share cultural artifacts, and ideas, and communicate with one another.


As per one research, 98% of the people upto 35 years of age use one or the other networking sites. Orkut seems to be winning the maximum share of hearts. Also there is 2:1 ratio of the people who use one or two networking sites at a go, devoting more than 5 hours per week. Around 50% of the people say that the main activities at these sites for them are either communicating with existing friends or finding old friends and making contact with them. They are also always eager to join communities on these sites of their interest. These findings clearly tell us that these sites are in some way or the other forming the virtual networks that are now becoming prevalent due to the busy schedules of the people and the need to stay connected with their peers always. Also these are really easy to manage with ever-introducing new features like Yahoo-Avatar or the site providing space to float your expressions through My space. when the users were asked for the negative effect of these sites only 20% said that it, however, is not about negative impact but these sites do take their time.


Social networking sites have some or the other sort of influence on the lifestyles of the people. While some people do not feel that it influences their lifestyles as they use these networking sites just for connecting with friends and do not feel their influence on their lifestyles. On the other hand, those who feel that these have some influence on their lifestyles had a lot to share. The responses suggest that some people have got addicted to the networking sites and use them more often, and as such their life is completely influenced by these.


People find it trendy to use these networking sites and being a member of the sites is considered trendy and 'in' thing. Some people surf these sites to interact with people with similar preferences and it helps in their decision-making abilities. They take the views and suggestions of the people before taking any such decisions and feel quite comfortable with it. Some people get knowledge about latest trends in fashion, electronic gadgets, etc. The most staggering influence of these networking sites for some people is the use of abbreviated words like 'd' for 'the' and likewise. They tend to use similar words in their day-to-day life and even in official communication, and often suffer due to this. For students, it often comes across during exams.


Talking about what is the dark side of such sites, we could say that day and night is a part of cycle. Generally, the networking sites have been of great utility to the users and they have found it of immense importance. But some people have had bad experiences from these networking sites. These bad experiences have been observed more by the female users than male users. The verification of genuine identity of the people is a problem. Many users have suffered from the same. People pose as someone else and tend to seek personal or confidential knowledge. This has led to breach of trust of a section of respondents.


The albums are accessible to everyone and as such the pictures can be easily copied and have even been distorted in some cases and put on fake profiles. Same is the case with scrapbooks or message boxes, which is visible to everyone. Information meant for one person is visible to everyone and is often harmful in relations. Some unknown people also put their comments on the scrapbooks to attract undue attention. The language is also offensive on many occasions.


The communities have even created furor over national and religious sentiments. Due to absence of any strict monitoring, communities targeted to humiliate one or the other community has mushroomed. Communities like "I hate Muslims" or "I hate Hindus" have created differences among the people and have often invited unwanted tension and rift. Some community even had an Indian flag burning, which shook the entire users of India and the national sentiments as a whole.


Now after having a look at both the glory and dark side of these networking sites, we really need to think again whether these sites are just a way to manage our network or more than that? Is it about entertainment or making our expressions public? We really need to see if we are getting social or addicted to virtual world and depending on it completely?