For the past couple of years now I have endlessly wondered how much of virtual networking is sufficient for normal people like you and me.
I know people whose Facebook friends run into hundreds and then I also know people who barely have 20 Facebook friends. I know people who tweet endlessly about anything and everything they do, see, experience and feel, and then I know people who only read tweets and don’t even bother replying/re-tweeting these tweets. In a nutshell, I know people who have an extremely active online virtual presence and have a big virtual network and I also know people who are not so active virtually as well. Are they any different? I don’t think so.
Agreed that the people who have a bigger virtual network are probably a little more ‘clued’ into the latest happenings from a ‘pop culture’ perspective, ie, latest movies, latest books, latest songs, etc. That I guess is a result of being completely on top of the most popular happenings of the world in the ‘virtual world’. That being said, when it comes to conventional current affairs, news, happenings around the world, these virtual nerds/geeks/zombies are pretty much on par (or in some cases, even behind) the regular people who keep track of newspapers, news shows on TV, and other traditional media. My opinion is that by embracing the virtual networking craze with a little too much zeal and zest, the virtual geeks are spending too much time on too much unnecessary information.
Yes, the virtual world provides you with an opportunity to have seemingly endless information at your fingertips, but what you do with all that information is something that has to be decided smartly. For eg, if you are a movie fan like myself, there are endless sites which provide you with the latest movie information, movie trailers, movie clippings, interviews with the stars of the movie, and I can pretty much spend my entire day and the next just flipping from one site to another, reading, viewing, enjoying myself. But what use is that information if I don’t actually go ahead and put it to any productive use. Information is valuable only when it is put to productive use, when it is used to enhance one’s life or any small aspect of one’s life, isnt’ it?
Today, we are all a part of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and probably a couple of more virtual networks. And yes, all of these networks have their own uses and pitfalls, but my question is where does one draw the line with these virtual networks? How much of your personal information and your life are you willing to share virtually? And I am not asking this question as a result of all the ‘data privacy’ issues that people talk about (that is material enough for a separate blog post or even a dedicated blog ). I am asking this question because most of the times I feel that people share a little too much of information on these networks.
Yes, I find it mildly interesting to know what a friend of mine in Hyderabad ate for breakfast today, but her incessant posting of food pictures of her every meal, day after day, meal after meal gets on my nerves after a point in time. Letting people know what you eat every meal of the day doesn’t quite count as networking, does it. Or maybe it does, and I am missing a point here…I don’t know.
There is no doubt that virtual networks have made it possible for people to come together for like-minded causes such as charity, walkathons for noble causes, collection of relief funds and material for disasters. They also provide an avenue for budding artists, writers, poets to showcase their work and get real time, uninhibited feedback on their creations. They provide a much needed avenue for amateur writers like myself to enhance my writing skills via the medium of blogging, and they also provide all voyeuristic readers like myself a chance to read about the lives of people all over the world. The benefits of such online collaborations are many and have proved to be extremely powerful as well, for eg, Wikipedia lists at least 4 massive public protests in the recent past which were coordinated using Twitter [Link to Wikipedia page]. Therefore the power of virtual networks to bring a large group of people together in a coordinated fashion cannot be ignored anymore.
That being said, another sad truth which needs to be accepted is the fact that most youngsters today use virtual networks simply to kill time which could otherwise be spent a little more productively. After all, there are better things to do that forward internet picture memes, forward stupid rehashed jokes of Tamil and Hindi movies on Facebook, right!!! I don’t have a problem with having a virtual network, but when the virtual networking takes over and dominates everything else in your life, that’s when my problem starts.
I personally use virtual networks to keep in touch with far flung cousins in Singapore and the US of A. Facebook is probably the only place where I can get to see my niece and nephews regularly via the pictures and videos that my cousins post. That being said, the joy I get when I actually see them in person during their annual trips, no Facebook or Skype can ever beat that.
This post was prompted by this article that I read yesterday where a journalist actually ‘live tweeted’ though his mother’s last few days of her battle with cancer [Link to article]. I really don’t know what to make of that situation.
I would really love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What do you use your virtual networks for? How much of virtual networking do you think is required in today’s connected world?
Image courtesy: Google image search for ‘virtual networking cartoon’
- Overtweeting: Are We Becoming Socially Antisocial? (rohitbhargava.com)