Perhaps the specific experience of online social networking is unprecedented in human history, but propelling it forward are the age-old drives that sometimes go by the name of the deadly sins. In fact, it can be argued that it is these primordial drives towards self-fulfillment that have compelled our civilisation to advance through the centuries. Take capitalism or economic liberalisation for instance, would they have taken off sans greed? So it goes with social networking. The lure of forbidden fruit continues to drive this revolution like most others.
Lust: It’s flippantly said that while the downside of social networks is that they are loaded with sexual predators, the upside is that they are also loaded with sexual prey. Indians have certainly joined the game, with Alexa web rankings revealing that freesexyindians.com, indiansexstories.net and megarotic.com are among the top 100 sites in the country. And on YouTube, Bollywood fans have helpfully posted “hot” clippings featuring everyone from Tina Munim to six-pack Sharukh.
Gluttony and Greed: It’s the obsessives who put the oomph into social networking, the ones who think nothing of twittering 20 times a day or logging into 10 different sites a week, never mind the bloated sensation at the end of it all. And money mania is also stronger than ever, with financial portals like moneycontrol.com outshining even popular sites like cricinfo.com. On the other hand, that rapidshare.com comes in at no.9 and megaupload.com at no.19 shows how social networking is encouraging a host of strangers to share private properties that they would earlier have withheld for themselves.
Wrath: Whether it is religious and political fanatics or people who are belligerent for the heck of it, the Internet carries their weapons forward further than any other device. Hence growing hate communities, with nearly 80,000 people registered as hating Ekta Kapoor on Orkut for instance. Another wrathful manifestation: sites like isolatr.com for people who would rather punch others than “talk about this or that.”
Sloth: Tempting one away from one’s chores, social networks can be the couch potato’s best friend. No wonder such sites are costing corporations £6.5 billion a year in the UK alone, according to a 2008 study by Global Secure Systems and Infosecurity Europe. On the flipside, in a climate of growing social isolation, they have become integral to how the youngest recruits into the workforce stay sane.
Envy and Pride: A woman called Tila Tequila on myspace.com who is “Vietnamese by heritage and blond by choice” has over 2.8 million friends, double the number of total users at India’s BigAdda! Naysayers might say there are only 24 hours in a day, so nobody has the time to get close to this many people. But others try to equal Tequila’s exploits. And make no mistake; social networks are essentially lubricated by egos, by our desire to show off a number of friends or a uniqueness of perspective. This desire to voice ourselves in the virtual world may have nothing to do with conventional friendships or being rich or having political muscle. But its roots still lie in the culmination of social contact, which is significant even when superficial.