Does the name Adnan Patrawala ring any bells in your head? He was the 16 year old teenager from Mumbai who lost his life, thanks to the social networking site, Orkut. Little did the poor kid know that his conversations with certain people online would lead him to his deathbed. But sadly, that is the reality. Social networking sites today have invaded the lives of the youth all over the world. This is evident from the fact that MySpace has 95 million users, equivalent to the population of the 12th largest country in the world!
There was a time when self portraits were a mark of wealth for the upper class. Today these self portraits on such sites are a mark of following the societal trend. Created to find friends, love or what is termed today as a “connection”, these address the need for constant attention among humans. A change in the profile would attract attention of all the friends in the form of ‘comments’ for the same.
What attracts people to such sites is the basic need for easy communication. There is no denying that it is the most convenient way to keep in touch with friends and families living in remote corners of the world. In an otherwise busy world, these sites are the only medium of interacting with loved ones.
These sites provide an appropriate forum for discussion. It has also not left politics untouched. This is evident from the fact that Hillary Clinton had networking profiles on all popular sites during the period of her campaign.
However, it comes with its flipside. Youth today is addicted to these sites. The fact that they can express their opinion without getting reprimanded or chided for it is enough for them to be dragged to their computers. This has been proved in studies which go on to substantiate that there are people who log in to these sites up to 20 times a day as a result of their obsessive and compulsive behaviour. This addiction is not restricted only to students. Numerous companies have been complaining of addicted workers who spend hours in front of their computers focussing only on the social networking sites.
This growing addiction has led to dysfunctional lifestyles, with addicts giving up on essentials such as sleep and exercise in order to spend more time on their PCs.
A professor of pharmacology from Oxford has expressed that such sites are affecting the brains of the visitors by reducing their attention span and infantilizing their brain.
All in all, such sites reify that humans are social animals and nothing in this world can stop them from adopting means that will encourage communication practices. These sites are useful as long as they are restricted to a medium of voicing opinion or keeping in touch, but the moment this gets converted into obsession is the time when one is forced to say that they are more of a bane than a boon.