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Online or real friends?

With 10 lakh hits on Youtube, and over 50,000 fans on Facebook, the ad jingle “Har ek friend zaroori hota hai,” is a hit both in the virtual world and real world.

sex and relationships Updated: Sep 17, 2011 23:27 IST

With 10 lakh hits on Youtube, and over 50,000 fans on Facebook, the ad jingle “Har ek friend zaroori hota hai,” is a hit both in the virtual world and real world. Even as the desk thumping and clapping Airtel ad is played out on fm channels and discussed on social networking sites, pop analysts are already trying to figure out why its touched a chord. Some say that the timing of the ad is what’s working for it — in the age when everybody has 500 friends on Facebook and followers can be obtained by signing onto Twitter, the ad is a reminder of old-fashioned friendship — you bail each other out, you tolerate each other’s irritating habits, you go shopping together...

Indeed, even as Facebook has marked 750 million users worldwide and Twitter just shared the number of its monthly active users at 100 million, there have been a number of studies suggesting that the more socially active we get online, the more the world may be becoming a lonelier place. Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford who claims that the human mind can only maintain 150 stable relationships, said in an article recently that though social networking sites have allowed us to amass thousands of “friends,” “our circle of actual friends remains stubbornly small”.

Warnings on the negative impact of social networking sites have been around as well, like claims of social networking sites ruining our bodies and brains by shortening our attention spans, weakening our immune systems and possibly fostering autism, as reported by neuroscientist Susan Greenfield and and British psychologist Aric Sigman. Though these claims have not been been validated, some other studies and observations by psychoanalysts highlight how the person out there online may not be you at all, Wired.com recently reported “the hilarious, adorable, fascinating, intelligent, so-worth-Friending version of you is actually not you at all” but more of an advertisement for yourself. Dan Schawbel, a branding consultant adds,“We are our brands online, whether we like it or not. The Internet is your permanent record.”

With over 25 million Indian users on Facebook, and over 30 lakh on Twitter the debate continues, online or offline, where would you rather hang out with your “friends”.