LIVING IN THE
By Jyothi Menon/Bangalore & Chaitali Aggarwal/New Delhi
Not so long ago, we used to wake up and wish our family members and friends a sweet good morning and sit together for the morning tea and chat face to face. Now, as most of us arise to our virtual world, the first thing we do is to check out our smartphones for those facebook inbox morning greetings that perhaps say so beautifully “mornings” – all the way from virtual friends in another state?!
There is an unexplainable uneasiness without our phones perched next to us; a gadget that now we don’t just use for texting and calling but for all our social media needs. The globalized alerts are all on the facebook, whatsApp, Instagram, twitter and what have you - all hold a special place in our phones and in our lives. So much so that a lot of people we spoke with said television for them now is passé.
Social media has become indispensable to most people’s lives. Wherever you go, you can see all kinds of mobile phones and tablets in use, in different places, in buses, inside the cars, in motion or at standstill and people caressing these magical tech gizmos with their fingers on their touch screens frantically! Relationships are formed here, tirades are run, heartbreaks happen often but social media thrives for all its convenience and viral dimensions.
The magic of social media lies in its profound ability to interact. It makes it so easy to present our views, opinions etc almost as fast as our thoughts happen. The social media fever has not really taken over the general public but has also held its sway over celebrities and politicians. As soon as they realized the power of this well, they couldn’t find them away from pressing those keys to express themselves and getting a direct opinion back from the public. This year’s India’s general elections were characterized by extensive use of social media by the three leading political parties in fray and election fever took over the social media sphere by storm – so much so that specialized SMO (social media optimization) companies have grown rapidly to deliver the goods!
Social media has become a tool for activism and a tool for all members of different classes to express their views. It empowers people to engage with each other on different issues and topics of discussions, to express their inner self, to form new personal bonds as well as to educate themselves and others and promote their businesses. It has become an all-pervasive and an indispensable part of our lives. Be it for online shopping, education, marketing, politics, activism, changing someone’s life, self-development- social media has dramatically changed the not-so social society in reality. The virtual world seems to have taken over the real world. In the process, it has also led to some changes in personal habits. The merits and de-merits of it being debatable.
Persistent users would swear by social media that it is a tool not restricted by age. For that matter, social media is equal for everyone irrespective of who you are, what your gender is, where you belong to. It has got something for everybody.
In order to get a sense of how it has impacted others, fnbworld.com spoke to a few people from both users of social media (virtual world) as well as those in real life to get their insights. Shranya Bhattacharya, a writer and books critic says: “Yes, I want to be famous! Who doesn't? I want my name to be known by the world! I will do all it takes! And the day, my fans would create a page for me and update it regularly, I would know... I have done something!!(I dunno it sounds cheap or not, but all I know is that, half the world is facebook).”
People have become more ‘virtually social’ and outgoing than they ever were earlier, whereas, some people feel that it may make one less sociable and participative in real life discussions and in personal conversations. Such is the addictive power of the new media/social media. But like two sides of one coin, social media has its disadvantages too. It has also affected the reading habits. Whereas, before the advent of social media, people used to spend more time outside and on books and newspapers, increased social media usage has led to reduce reading hours. Most respondents use social media to interact, converse with friends and for discussion with buddies in groups.
Social media behemoth facebook seems to be the most popular among these respondents owing to its dynamics of allowing long conversations and discussions as well as sharing of information and advertising among a host of other features. A major problem that concerns the respondents is the addictive behaviors due to excessive prevalence of social media, as well as the dangers of internet predators who troll children and women and many may be unwittingly tricked into meeting them. Hence, they say a lot of caution has to be taken when on the social networking sites. Intelligent and balanced use of these sites may bring a lot of benefits while careless and incautious use may be more detrimental.
The inventers of social media are surely aware of the mentality of the public they cater. While a given technology is supposed to get obsolete with time, on the contrary social media is alive and constantly upgradable, running technology that grows and advances with every update brought on it.
A few changes that may bring a glow to the eyes of the social media buff: Incorporating audio postings so friends on one’s list can hear each other’s voices, more options such as like, dislike, neutral, etc on facebook settings that will enable more variety of responses. The current option of ‘like’ is quite restrictive. Also, mobile applications (Apps) need to have more settings. Currently, they have lesser settings as compared to desktop apps. More controls of intrusiveness and stricter regulation of privacy issues. Recent tweaks have made information more likely to be accessed.
Too much of anything could destroy you, it is said. Too much light could be blinding. It is imperative to handle with care social media tools having such immense power. While accepting how vital a role social media plays in our lives; it is important to maintain a balance and not to lose focus.