by Pierre Le Roux
Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter are just some social networking websites most of us visit every day. The world has indeed become a smaller place as it is getting easier for us to communicate and connect with people from across the globe. The convenience of checking up on what your friends are doing with the click of a button has in some cases replaced a simple phone call. Names have been replaced with handles or avatars and it all have become very impersonal. This led me to ask, has social networking websites driven as further away from each other instead of bringing us closer?
There are very few people I know that are not on Facebook. The scary reality is that if you don’t have a Facebook, Linkedin or Google+ account you almost do not exist and if you don’t tweet or know what Twitter is you have probably been living in a cave. Cyberspace no longer is a mere tool to do research, get information, sell or buy products and communicate, it has evolved into an alternative means of socialization. We share information about ourselves with hundreds if not thousands of people every day and in return we get to know more about others. Sometimes we learn things about people we rather could have done without.
Having just over 6000 friends on Facebook my news feed gets flooded with status updates every few minutes. Some status updates are quite interesting and others are just plain bizarre. This one person on Facebook insists on providing blow-by-blow accounts about the status of his erections – like I care! Seriously, is his life that uninteresting or should there be some cause for concern regarding his obsession with his cock? Another person seems to have serious relationship problems as her relationships status fluctuates between beings single, in a relationship, engaged, to it’s complicated and back to single again in the course of just one week. Either she’s experiencing some schizoid episodes or urgently needs to evaluate her “relationship” as it does not seem healthy.
Something I find particularly bizarre is the Facebook profiles people create for their pets and children. A family member (whose name I wouldn’t dare mention) have created and maintains profiles for her dog and cat complete with photos, careers and relationship status. Another person I know has done the same for her 9 month old son, and he already has 67 friends. It’s just creepy, but I did accept their friend requests, I do know them after all. I too have created a Fan Page for my cat “Killer Pussy”, so yea I am no better than them either. At least my cat has more fans than the average person on Facebook have friends. She has 815, but she doesn’t give a rats ass about that (and yes the pun is fully intended).
Even stranger is the fact that on Twitter I am now following a cat. No you didn’t read incorrectly I am really following a critter of the feline persuasion. I get hourly updates from the feline lounging around the house, taking a nap or taking a poo in the litter box. Now, I will admit this is my own craziness for following the daily toils of a fictional cat, but curiosity also got the better of over 1 416 057 other people who are also following “Sockington” the famous tweeting feline. One would think having 5 cats of my own I would have better things to do, but clearly I don’t. (PS: Killer Pussy is on Twitter too!)
Social networking sites have also made us lazy and voyeurs. Where are the days when friends returned from an exotic holiday and we would pop by for a visit to check out their holiday photos? These days you can follow their adventures online and in real time. This makes it really convenient for all your stalkers to track where you are and what you are doing. No need to hide in the bushes are purchase expensive plane tickets. Facebook has brought us Cyber Stalking. Personally, I have to admit that I am guilty of this myself. I do check out certain people’s profiles regularly to see what is going on in their lives, and I will admit I do this mainly to feel better about myself. You can’t lie, I know many of you do the same thing, come on admit it.
How many of us really know the people we are friends with online? Very few of us have actually met half of our virtual friends. I am one of the biggest culprits in this area. Out of my 6 742 Facebook friends I shamefully would have to admit that I know maybe 200 of them. From the 200 I probably have only met 50. Yet, on a daily basis I have an unadulterated bird’s eye view of their turmoil’s and joys of all of them and they have the same of mine – quite frightening if you sit back and think about it. Effectively we are sharing vast amounts of personal information about ourselves with perfect strangers and yes even with “cats”.
To a certain degree technology has made it easier for us to communicate. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, MSN, Skype, Google+ or any of the other platforms to stay in touch, the one thing you should really be asking yourself is whether these mediums are a better substitute for personal contact? Social networking websites have changed the way we connect with people but even though you can reach a friend or family member that’s on a different continent with the click of a mouse there still is a barrier between you, and the Internet will never be able to replace face-to-face personal contact or the warmth of a hug.
Till next time.