By Namrata Gulati
Popular social networking sites are bringing the world closer and facilitating oneness
‘Are you on Orkut?”, asked my college mate Nupur Mittal, 20, as I bumped into her one day in the canteen. “No,” I said, totally clueless. “Join it. It’s fun,” suggested Nupur. Eager to know what Orkut was all about, I went to the college cyber café. I quickly made an account on Orkut.com and found almost all my friends and relatives on this social networking site. The next day, I was asking everyone the same question Nupur had asked me.
It’s been two years since then, and I am completely hooked to the phenomenon of social networking sites just like more than one million Indians today who are using popular sites like Hi5!, Facebook and Orkut to revive their social lives. Shares Ranjana Dewan, a housewife and a Facebook enthusiast, “My day starts with a cup of tea and Facebook. I have been able to discover long lost friends through the social network. I can now poke them, send them messages and gifts easily! Thanks to Facebook, my life has become more interesting!” Similarly, Rajeev Rajdeva, 23, an engineer by profession, feels grateful to Yaari.com for letting him “meet new people across India and countries like USA, Dubai and Tehran.”
Connecting the like-minded
Apart from Orkut, Hi5 and so on, other social networking websites like greenbin.com, gooddeeds.org and cafemom.com aim at bringing together people sharing similar interests, goals or even a profession. WAYN (Where Are You Now?) for instance is one such website that has been designed to allow travel lovers from different parts of the world to interact with one another. Niti Rajput, an MA student, echoes Shubha Rai, an arts student when she says, “I love travelling and WAYN has enabled me to share my travelling experiences with friends and other people. I always know which part of the world my friends are in or can let them know where I am exactly, all with the help of a map and other such creative travel tools on WAYN!” Equally interesting websites are geni.com, my.ecoearth.info and green-passions.com that seek to unite family, relatives, writers and ‘Green Singles’ respectively.
Age, no bar!
Points out Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix, “There is a misconception that social networking is the exclusive domain of teenagers.” He supports his statement with an example, “As social networking sites have become mainstream, the demographic composition of MySpace.com has changed considerably. Last year half of the site’s visitors were at least 25 years old, while today, more than half of MySpace visitors are age 35 or older.” The statistical study conducted by ComScore reveals that a significant percentage of people located in the age bracket of 35-54 are present on websites like Friendster and Xanga. To add to that, a sum total of 34 per cent of people aged above 55 are present on Xanga, MySpace, Friendster and Facebook. “After my wife’s death, I used to feel extremely lonely. That is when I discovered MySpace. Now, I can get to know different kinds of people. At the same time, MySpace led me to rekindle my passion for music and movies. Life is more interesting and exciting unlike before!” Ranjan Kumar, a retired bank manager aged 70, tells us with a broad smile on his face.
Supporting social causes (Blank Noise Project)
The Blank Noise Project (BNP) is an initiative that was first led by Jasmeen Patheja on Orkut in the year 2003. The community that seeks to put up a fight against sexual harassment on the streets had nine participants back then, only women. In less than six years, the Orkut community has witnessed a stupendous growth, having its extensions all over cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Lahore, Cochin, Bangalore and Lucknow involving both male and female participants. BNP moderator (Mumbai), Asavari Gill tells us why she chose Orkut as a medium to make people socially aware, “Orkut is a good medium to connect with people and it is highly popular among Indians.” On the other hand, BNP moderator from Delhi, Harneet Kaur had her own reasons for starting a community on Orkut, “My decision to start a community on Orkut was primarily based on the fact that I wanted a presence in the most popular social networking site of that time. A community on a social networking site affords more visibility. You would invariably notice the name on your friend’s profile and would like to know more about it if it gets you interested. It’s easier to share links and information with your peer group and, so, it works better as a publicity tool.” Radhika Chitkara, a law student, Bangalore/Delhi lets us know more about the activities taken up by BNP through Orkut, “ BNP is an extremely popular and hard-working group that organises activities from time-to-time to serve a good cause, for instance, spreading awareness through the discussion forum, having polls, communicating to decide a suitable venue for morchas and meetings. For greater participation, the discussions are open to non-members as well.”
Revolutionising spirituality through technology
Prem Nirmal, an electronic engineer by profession, started off making lucrative products for the defence business, but put a stop to it when his spiritual mentor, the reclusive Dada Gawand, advised him to use “technology for the right reasons”. He switched to manufacturing electronic appliances that could help farmers. “There was no profit or such motive, but I was happy.” Today, as founder of Jivan Mukta, a community on Facebook he created, he feels that he has finally discovered the ultimate use of technology. He raves, “More than 350 members in three days, is proof enough that the New Age has arrived. The right use of technology makes heaven on earth possible.” The community today has more than 400 members (and is still growing!) who have been brought together to interact and hold open discussions concerning freedom, enlightenment and Nirvana or simply spiritual experiences.
Rajat Mittal, an MBA graduate, Mumbai, perfectly sums up the contribution of social networks to our social lives, “After school, I led a monotonous life. But some social networking sites helped me get in touch with school and college friends and thereby, expand my friends circle. I could then retrieve my childhood and long lost memories.” No wonder, Rajat has more than 700 friends on Orkut!
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