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Orkut, the new agony aunt

Experts in psychology point out that people do feel comforted when they see others with similar problems but then warn that at times the solutions provided can be very dangerous.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2008 05:04 PM IST

While millions continue to log into social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook to make friends and socialise, a small but growing number of individuals are also logging on to share not only their personal problems but also to find solutions for them.

Social networking sites are are increasingly taking the shape of the new age online 'agony aunt'.

"Orkut has been a great strength of support for me. I had lost all faith in destiny till I logged on to a kidney transplant community where people with similar problems pepped me up by writing down their experiences," says Sarath Kumar from Hyderabad.

Sarath, who is looking out for a kidney donor for himself adds, "They were people who told me what to do, what all precautions I should take and even suggested names of some good doctors that I could get in touch with."

The popularity of such networking sites turning out to be the agony aunt can be gauged from the hundreds of help communities that have been set up, be it from complex issues like kidney transplants, blood cancer to much smaller issues like teenage heart breaks.

Not only do these communities attract a large number of members who indulge in periodical discussions to offer help to the one seeking, many also take part in these discussions as non members.

"The whole purpose of my community has been to reach out to people who face similar problems. Many of the freshers had joined my community and we discussed everything from anti- ragging rules to how to go about with their admission procedure," says Sashank Nair, who had set up a community for first year under-graduate students.

But, in some cases such communities have also turned out to be a mode for indulging in various illegal activities like procuring kidneys. Orkut in a statement released to PTI said that every step is being taken to control any illegal activities being done online.

"Having said that, it is important to remember that the vast majority of people use Orkut for the purpose it was created to meet and share, organise and communicate, speak and be heard. In this case there are several individuals who are using the Orkut platform to reach out to thousands of people to spread awareness and exchange notes on preventive remedies and cures many problems," says Vinay Goel, Head of Products, Google India, the parent company of Orkut.

Atul Yadav, member of an epilepsy related community says, "I am under medication for the last 12 years and this was frustrating me. I felt that I was the only one who has to undergo this. But later on a networking site, I came across a community for people like me. I was amazed to see that such large number of people there who had bigger problems than me. We all stay regularly in touch and this motivates me."

Psychologists point out that people do feel comforted when they see others with similar problems but then warn that at times the solutions provided can be very dangerous.

"There is a tendency among people to turn to others when confronted with problems. Finding others with similar problems can at times ease your negative thoughts. Discussing problems with someone who is undergoing the same can be very comforting as both can relate to each other,' says Aroona Broota, well known Psychologist.

She adds, " But then one should be careful of the remedies or information provided by others who are not medically qualified. It always necessary to get in consult with your doctor if the problem is medical."

As Sarath says, "There is more to these sites than just chatting. You call call them the new age agony aunts."

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