How's your social life on the Web? Mine's almost over. My love for Myspace and Facebook lasted a couple of weeks. It was great hooking up with old friends and complete strangers, with people you had forgotten or you thought had died but were still alive. It was nice to share pictures, stories, experiences and what have you. Now that everything has been shared with everybody — well almost — it's probably time to get back to socialising the real way.
There is a view that social networking fatigue could set in soon as surfers get tired of trying to balance their real and cyber lives. Building an online identity over and over again is not always the easiest thing to do but a lot of people do get sucked into it, if only to stay at par with peers. Hey, how many networking sites are you on? All, dude. You can find me on Orkut, Facebook, Myspace, Rhyze, even Bigadda! Hell, do I care?
A lot of us do and that's the reason social networking sites have boomed in recent years, zipping into the netherworld with millions joining the bandwagon in a rush to find out more about others, start communities and eventually get bombarded by inane messages that people send just to remain part of a group.
All of this of course takes a toll. What was once novel becomes routine. And when you reach that stage, it's time to step back, take a deep breath and ask yourself where your real world friends are. You could pop into a bar or have them home for a real chat, for between work, play and other things you do in your life it's just not possible to keep up. How many times would you want to know about a cat or a dog? Or for that matter how can joining a Facebook community aimed at stopping child prostitution lend itself to some real work?
Social networking sites have become hugely popular in the past few years since the first one — Friendster — was launched in 2002. Myspace — which is now owned by News Corp —and Facebook followed, pushing millions of teenagers and oldies into a cavernous, narcissistic hole where there is little privacy but a lot of bonhomie. There are now specific social networking sites catering to specific groups such as hamster owners.
When I talk of social networking I am reminded of the time several years ago when email started becoming a necessity and I decided to get myself a suitable address, only to find I could not register my name on any of the sites offering the service. It was too common. Various permutations and combinations did not work either. So what did I do? I found a name that nobody used and opened accounts with it on as many sites as I could. For about two weeks I used all of them, before they began falling by the wayside one by one — forgotten forever. Now I use only two of them — the first because it offers me a huge amount of space and the other because I am too lazy to transfer the addresses.
Communities are fun, so is social networking, but for me the newness of the experience is beginning to fade. I can't hang around on the same site forever because the next one that appears around the corner might be just that much more exciting.
Who knows what would happen a decade later. Newspapers are nearly two centuries old and they are still there.
Television has been around in India for about six decades and people continue to watch them, and the Internet has been around for 30-odd years. For the time being there is little option but to look ahead.