Friday, April 6, 2007

The Curse of the Social Network

I am not a very 'social' person. I take time to start talking or initiate conversations. Once past the initiation stages, my talkative instincts take over and then the pain dawns on the unfortunate listener. But I am not very social to begin with, although that hasn't stopped me from having over 200 friends on my Orkut list.

I have often been accused by friends and family alike, for not keeping in regular touch via phone, mail, or whatever conventional form, mainstream communication entails. During the erstwhile 24-hours-internet-in-rooms-deprived Roorkee days, mother would call once or twice a week, talk, and then demand an explanation for not sending emails, detailing the happenings in my rather uneventful life, on a regular basis. What does she expect? She's already talked to me a couple of times in the week. What more can possibly happen in a week that would require so much description? Motherly love can be funny. And it doesn't end there. I would need to assure her at the end of every call that I would send emails to my uncles, grandparents and so on, telling them how incredibly well I am doing in life, while praying for their good health. (Not that I have anything against them. Plain laziness, thats all) But I digress. Point is, I am not terribly thrilled about going to chat forums or social networking sites to make new 'friends' - a word that is increasingly changing in its meaning with each passing day. I am rather quite satisfied with the small clutch of friends that exist on my Orkut profile (or Facebook for that matter). The part where things start getting annoying is the friend requests I get from other social networking sites (SNS). Now what is the problem in that, you may wonder? Well, those friends are already on my friend list in Orkut/Facebook and are also quite active in them.

It is nice being members of various networking sites. In fact, many wise people would tell you to register profiles in your name in popular sites, such as MySpace, in order to prevent other malevolent elements from creating profiles in your name and misusing them. But I fail to understand the need for having almost identical friend lists in ten different social networking websites. I wish these sites slowly started shutting shop and dropping out like the instant messaging scene, where we now have only a handful that dominate the IM market.

More galling is the basic design of some of these SNSes. One example of SNS gone wild is Gazzag. Quite possibly the most ridiculous of the lot, it has an option to invite all your Orkut friends. Now what kind of a bird-brained idea is that? Why would I want to be in a network where 99% of my friends would be the same as that in Orkut? Turns out, people actually bought into that idea and soon my inbox was swamped with Gazzag friend requests. The other put-off is when you get reminders for friend requests. I am not sure if it was Tagged that sent me this or some other SNS, but the message was something to the effect of "so-and-so person has 'Tagged' you. Please accept the request or he will think you said no." Hmm... Let us pause for a moment and imagine the consequences of saying 'no' to a friend request. In all likelihood he will be your Orkut friend who might have been your 'fan'. Plus he might have said you are '100% cool, trusty and sexy' (For those who are new to the workings of Orkut, yes. Guys - the straight ones - also mark other guys as sexy.) Now imagine saying no to another 100 'Tagged' requests. What would that mean to your Orkut reputation? Sudden drop in your fan count and 'Sexy, Trusty, Cool'(STC) quotient. Disastrous, isn't it? And if you are one of those people who get a kick out of seeing your scrapbook count swell exponentially with each passing day, wouldn't it be catastrophic to see it now increase only erm...incrementally?

So here is a suggestion to all those who value their social network friendships and want to exist equally active on milion other SNSes. Let us develop different mindsets for different SNSes. Let each social network be considered a separate parallel universe where friendships are made and broken independent of other networks. May you be best friends with A on Orkut and worst enemies with the same A on Facebook. This way you can switch on and off between different networks. How much helpful it would be, to be able to do that in real life. It would be the purest form of professionalism one could have ever conceived. Imagine Greg Chappell and Ganguly succesfully working with each other on the pitch but thinking up
new expletives each time they bumped into one another at a local pub. (Forgive the cricket analogy. Hard enough, having lost the appetite for the World Cup) However, for those like me, who are satisfied with being members of just an SNS or two, the delete button on your inbox would be your greatest friend, for any friend request from any other God-forsaken social network.

Seriously, don't we have enough people to talk to already?

By the way here is another hilarious post on the basics of social networking. Not that this post was particularly rib-tickling.


  1. [...] post by of cats and dags and software by Elliott [...]

  2. You're right. That post *is* rib-tickling.

  3. If wishes were Horses... (it would be really scary)
    Ya. I'm getting bugged by the sns requests too. I think the time has come or us to start a street gang of sorts, on the net. to vandalise and eliminate all such bogus sites...

  4. [...] click here and give it a shotI have trashed some of the annoying elements of social networks, and mildly joked about Orkut in an earlier post. Of course, whether the ‘humour’ actually came through is entirely up to the readers. [...]