We call it social media, but are we blanking out the very essence of social norms and etiquettes while using it? Our pervasive usage of social networking applications, be it whatsapp, facebook, twitter or foursquare has led to a situation wherein we are in ‘virtual’ touch with our friends, family, acquaintances and community. However, that touch is bereft of the human element. And sometimes, that touch is the most important.
Last week, my friend had a bad cold. She put it up on facebook proclaiming her illness. The post attracted fair amount of attention from the usual crowd of male admirers and words of advice. Later, she claimed that no one actually came to pay her a visit and the only person who helped her the most at that time was her maid!
IMHO social media biggest application is communication when distances are an issue. People are increasingly using it as a substitute for human emotions and memories. People click photographs at a party or an outing not for memories but to post them to facebook. People gauge their popularity by the number of likes they get for a facebook post or the number of retweets/ followers.
Is that wrong? Maybe not. People increasingly have two personalities – One is the virtual personality and the other is the real world personality. The problem will come when the two will clash. The most dramatic change is to circumvent difficult portions of real world interactions by simply retreating into the virtual world. This is seen often at social gatherings wherein people retreat into the virtual world if they are not interested in the ongoing conversations or activities.
As I said earlier, Social media is a great tool to ‘enhance’ old friendships. However, there is a new trend to ‘friend’ people whom we don’t know or know through somebody. This can be attributed to social protocol but there is still no accepted protocol on how to treat these new ‘friends’. An acquaintance of mine refers to them as her ‘fans’. These new found friends possibly offer an outlet to have offhand conversations without the demanding nature of friendship.
It is difficult to sustain this barrage of electronic media as a substitute for real world interactions. In fact, internet addiction is now treated as a clinical disorder (http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.1998.1.237).
What is needed is balance between the virtual and real world. As Lara Croft says in Tomb Raider – “Nature is about balance. All the world comes in pairs”.
This balance is precarious and needs constant leveraging to bring it to the moment of equilibrium. Virtual world may lead you to a delusional state of mind and behavior wherein you can find real world too ‘real’ to handle.
So go out there and smell the air. And when you come back, do post about this blog!