Posted by Haris Gulzar on September 23, 2010
I’m not sure if the social networking websites we have had in the past few years have really helped us grow our social networks or not, but I guess it definitely has had an impact on the way we used to socialize previously. A good impact or a bad impact, that’s for us to decide…
I didn’t know much about MySpace. For me, it started off with Orkut. Having an Orkut account at the time it was launched was thought to be in style. A person was considered famous if he had an Orkut account and if he could send out 4 invites (That’s what the limit was if I remember correctly). I got my invitation sent by a cousin and I felt like a super star when I tried finding many of my friends there only to come to know they didn’t have an account yet. Back then, whoever had more friends on Orkut was considered to be more social. Having more than a 100 friends on Orkut was like achieving a milestone. It didn’t matter if the people you had as your friends were actually your friends or not. And then Orkut also had an option of marking people as an acquaintance, a friend, or a very good friend, so that sort of justified having far off acquaintances to be added as friends as well. The scrapbook and the comparisons people used to make about the number of scraps they had. The birthday reminder feature, the photo sharing feature and other similar features were new and hence attracted a lot of traffic.
Then came Hi5, though for a short time only I guess. Right when it started gaining popularity and when it was getting into the lives of everyone just the way Orkut had, Facebook came into action, and that too with a lot more features than even Orkut was offering. Facebook defined social networking a completely new way. Although chat was not launched with facebook initially, but the addition of chat feature from within facebook worked wonders for facebook. Developers could build applications, account holders could do whatever previous social networking websites offered plus a lot more. You could write notes and upload videos as well. There were applications like the Graffitti that were very famous initially. Then there were features like tagging people in pictures and in notes. The privacy features were supposedly better than Orkut until recently. The feature of making events and inviting friends, making groups and pages etc, the embedded emails and similar features made a facebook user stick to facebook. In short, Facebook proved to be something people were eagerly waiting for.
As the case was with Orkut, things didn’t change much with Facebook either. The way people added friends remained the same. The race to have more and more friends continued on Facebook as well. People used to remind their acquaintances when and how they met and why they should be friends on Facebook. Being friends on facebook with your real life friends was considered to be equivalent to keeping in touch with them, although the frequency of interactions, as I see it, declined exponentially. Keeping in touch with friends through facebook chat or writing on facebook wall was considered enough, and an occasional comment on a shared picture or a video meant you care for that friend. Keeping up to date with friends now is as simple as signing in to facebook.
But the question still remains. Has Orkut, Hi5, facebook or even twitter for that matter, really helped us improve our social networks? Has it improved the way we interact with our friends and acquaintances? Has it helped us socialize more than we did previously? Have the applications such as games on facebook helped us interact more with people we didn’t interact with previously? Have these social networking websites had a positive impact on our lives?