Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Click Me Please!


I split my sides when I receive a friend request from a ‘Cool Boy’ with a message that says,” Will you ‘do friendship’ with me?” Visit ‘Cool Boy’s’ profile and you may feel the need to recheck how a dictionary defines cool!

Like most, I too am a frequent visitor at the social networking sites. I wonder if we share the privilege of stumbling upon such whacky profiles on Orkut, Facebook, Ibibo etc. Profiles with elements like superhuman names, photographs, larger than life self description, seem to work as a rule of social networking.

We often look at our photographs and think, “Do I look like that?” We live with assumptions. And we wish to be recognized the way we see ourselves, irrespective of what we really are.

Social networking gives us just that, a platform to project ourselves to the world according to our way. The advantage is that people have no other option but to believe what is served to them. It is a shift from reality, a virtual space where we may design our identity according to our aspirations- a reason why social networking is so popular.

Social networking sites are not just to make new friends and relationships. Most use it for the purpose of increasing contacts, friend circle, to be part of communities etc. But at the end of the day just like in an unmediated environment these define your social standing in this virtual set-up. There is a great scope of acceptance if you are part of the community made for “Coldplay”, “Save the Tiger”, “Manchester United” etc whether you are really interested or not.

This process of acceptance is also a form of self gratification. When devoid of social approval in real life we look for that in the garb of anonymity. It is easier for us to forge our real identities and create a profile using text, audio, video, that generates maximum clicks. The more the clicks the more popular we become.

When I see it closely, I feel we are eventually “selling” ourselves. The whole process of’ profiling’ revolves around the advertising model of AIDA. Let us bring ‘Cool Boy’ into the picture. His USP is that he is ‘cool’. He has named himself in a peculiar way to attract ATTENTION, created a profile to increase INTEREST of the visitor. If his profile is DESIRABLE to anyone, that person may ACT by accepting the friend request. By embellishing our identities to gain acceptance we have reduced ourselves to mere toothpaste.

The real danger though is not really in becoming toothpaste but to fall prey to social network predators. Especially in case of growing adults who are prone to experimenting with new things. In their search of acceptance they become victims of online abuse, bullying and identity theft. Researchers say social-networking sites are shortening attention spans, encouraging instant gratification, and making people more self-focused.

It is left to us whether we choose to live in the reality or become a virtual schizophrenic. The dire need to be socially accepted may make us forget who we really are. There is no contention in having a profile on a social network. We need to be careful in choosing who we are interacting with and what we are projecting ourselves to be.

If ‘Cool Boy’ is listening and is able to profile the real self, let’s see if then people “do friendship” with him or not!

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