August 19, 2009 Pune, India - Rolling back the wheel of time to a point where we were small kids, I could imagine myself playing in mud, giggling around with other kids from our apartments, playing hide-n-seek with the kids within my network, enjoying, laughing, weeping after an unexpected quarrel face to face and getting engaged with real innovative games – the kind of ones which are hardly heard of by the kids of today. The story stands true not only for our high school days but also for the days just before we entered the college. My years as a kid were real exhilarating, for the things we did collectively as a bunch, as a network of prodigies and partners in crime. We played and soiled ourselves in the mud, soaked ourselves in the early showers of the monsoon every year and had committed innocent crimes with our own troop of partners. Little rascals, so were we. But this was my kind of social networking as a kid of those times.
Coming back to the point to where the wheel of time is currently pointing to, I notice that there is a drastic change to the way kids and people at a broader scale network and socialize. Keeping afar from the non-creamy layered sections of the society, to whom the word ‘socializing’ is not more important than their daily bread and butter, a majority of the children from most of the prosperous families have been caught into the vicious trap of online socializing. They have built their own set of protocols and a common set of terminologies which they often use over the telephone and lately the Internet. Their world is set up over the ‘Tweets’ and ‘Scraps’ they write and post online. They have their own set of followers to whom they refer as ‘friends’. Friends follow their tweets everywhere; some real good ones care to comment on them too. A person’s display picture on the social networking website is the face of the individual in the virtual society of online networking and all that he has inked down in his display profile is known to be his personality. Online Scrapbook, well, is something that you need not even carry, rather it follows you wherever you go - more the number of entries you have in it, the more social animal you are supposed to be. I remember the days when we carried our scrapbooks in our school to collect the autographs of our teachers and friends. But then, it was the way we did it as technologically backward kids. Times have changed and so is the way people maintain their stuff. Technology was just invented to make our life easier, wasn’t it?
“I have just created an online profile and have started adding new friends, some of them to whom I already know, some whom I do not know and some I haven’t even ever met. I send out messages to them periodically, express my thoughts, disgusts and joy with them. I do not really bother if they really understand me but it makes me happy to have so many people who are always available to me to share my feelings. I also keep on following other bots on the Internet and read their thoughts and feelings. I kept on doing this for days, for months and for years. I realize that I’ve started living in a virtual world of feelings. The very next day I come across an application that can very well be embedded into the portal I use to socialize, I can send out hugs, kisses and slaps. I also have an option to publish my actions within my network. Can it be any easier than this? I am damn sure not. All my actions are powered by binary codes and they absolutely have no restrictions. That is something I must be proud of. One fine day, something out of this world, made me realize that I have become so mechanical. Why do these online bots fail to please me when I am real sad, soothe my pain when I am ill or pacify my loneliness when I am in need of a real good company? Sometimes, I wish I had a chance to pinch the cheeks of a newborn of my best friend, wish I could have a chance to pat the back of my old friend for his promotion and wish I could share a cup of coffee with a friend who had not been in touch for ages. I am a human and sometimes I hate to be one. I have started feeling lonely. I see nothing but a notebook screen that has been creating an illusion of the world I am living in. I realize that although I have my friends and dear ones living in my computer, all that I am missing is their personal touch.”
Isn’t that something you might have ever felt? Technology has always been man’s best friend, a tool that has been shaping our lives, a boon to innovate the way we think and do our work. Online socializing is just another example adding to it. The globe is getting smaller and smaller each coming day. For years, technology has been giving newer dimensions to the way we perform our things in the real life. I really love the beauty of several of the social networking websites over the Internet – they almost can be epitomized as a visualization of the real life. Ironically, although it is visualization, at the same time it is virtual, irreplaceable and not substitutable to the real world. The tools available online are just assisting us to keep your ends tied to your contacts.
We live in a dynamic world. I call it as the real world. Let us refer the technologically visualized world in the social networking websites as the virtual world and the society therein as the virtual society. Talking about the real world, we live in a society that is formed of laws, ethics, behavior, relationships and numerous such aspects that I believe cannot even be visualized in a single go. The virtual world that can be surfed today on the Internet is actually not even a smallest fraction of the real world. I do not want to discuss the algorithms, the logic involved and other technicalities pertaining to the famous networking websites available today, rather just want to drag your attention towards some of the most serious limitations these websites possess. Ungoverned access to pornographic content, unethical hacking into restricted information, illegal dating services are to name a few. In no manner, this is a true visualization of the real world that I know and understand. The Internet claims that social networking is in the phase of evolution and would be the future of upcoming technological advances. Evolution is a never ending and an ever improving process but there are doubtlessly no substitutes to the basic elements that constitute to life.
One of my favorite bots from the virtual world, also my best friend in the real world says – “I love my computer because all my friends live in it”. Now that could sound funny in the first read, but this is something which needs a second thought when you login to any social networking website the next time.