I would like to point out, in the very beginning itself, that this post is not an attempt to demystify the big maze of social networking or to deplore about how much time mankind (literally) wastes on that!
Almost everyone has his views about the topic, as you’d expect one to have about what all is wrong with our country, and so much has already been said about it and every angle explored in such detail that another post doing the same makes little sense! Rather, I’d like to recollect my experiences with social networking.
To begin with, I wasn’t much exposed to the online world as late as my first year in college, in 2006, but it wasn’t generally so for my batchmates, especially the ones who belonged to Delhi itself. They knew what Yahoo! messenger was and I didn’t. Nevertheless, I catched up fast by spending copious hours at the college’s computer centre! Things weren’t as easy as walking on a bed of roses, though. Many websites were blocked or the necessary plugins missing. Computers were programmed to format on every restart (seriously!) which, in turn, meant that you probably had to install the messenger, a time-consuming task itself, on your every visit (I later got around the problem when I found out about Meebo). Then there were the seniors who didn’t care one bit that you had bunked your class to be there as the commanded you to leave!
Things have changed rapidly since then. We are now in a world where cheeky status updates (for example, one announcing that you just bought a new toothpaste) with a smiley :-) in the end or some Facebook fan page asking you to like, comment on or share an image to give one, five or ten salutes respectively to a cause are not uncommon!
Allow me to give you a tour of all that I’ve experienced.
Orkut: During my first year in college, I vividly remember how excited a friend was as he once came rushing to make sure I had created an account on Orkut, how we found out at least a dozen proxy links (for example, kproxy, anonymouse, etc.) to access Orkut from the computer centre or how desperate some of my friends were to increase their scrap-count: we were addicted/obsessed with Orkut!
Even though Orkut had many users, especially in India, it was crappy. For example, if you uploaded new photos, there was no way your friends would know about it. So now, you would have to change your name to something like “XYZ ~ uPloAdEd NeW pHoToS tO ma aCCoUnT!” (yes, typing this way was cool back then, as it still is) and then visit your friends’ profile so that your name appeared in their recent visitors list. You couldn’t comment on photos and your scrapbook was publicly visible. In short, what a mess! People kept using it, until they found a better solution (read, Facebook) after which, they never returned.
Facebook: The main purpose of Facebook is to help me connect with my friends and it is failing big time with that. It tells me that some obscure guy in my friend list (whom I added just because we had fifty mutual friends in the first place) forgot to take his wallet to a restaurant but doesn’t help me find out when a close friend quits his job without another offer in his pocket. I have unsubscribed from more than half of my friend-list and I know I can further customize what and how much I see of the rest, but don’t I have other things to do in life?
The only Facebook feature that is still of some interest to me is the chat, but I have begun to realize that Whatsapp is a better alternative to that. I now try to keep my Facebook account deactivated for as long as I can; deactivated, because deleting it (if there even is an option to) is rather difficult for obvious reasons.
Twitter: I turned to Twitter, a microblogging platform, when I realized that I wasn’t able to find enough time to write for my blog. I initially fell in love with Twitter, would open it on my phone first thing in the morning, but the charm faded away soon, mainly because I didn’t have many real-life friends there. A guy, back in college, used to say that Twitter would become the primary way we’d stay connected after college- that, however, didn’t even begin to happen! My Twitter account mostly stays dormant, except for an occasional tweet.
Instagram: I created an account on Instagram while looking for a website to share photos that I would click from my newly-purchased camera. But then I realized that Instagram was mainly created to help iPhone and Android users quickly share their phone-photos after, maybe, applying some basic filters and not for people looking to share their DSLR photos. Moreover, in the latter, the pain of transferring your photos to your phone every now and then was asking too much. I don’t use Instagram anymore.
500px: was another place that I thought I could use to build my portfolio of photographs. But I was quickly intimidated by the sheer professionalism of the pictures uploaded there. I’d like to directly upload the photos my camera has clicked, unlike the professional photographers who do a lot of post-processing to raw images, and 500px clearly wasn’t the place for that.
Google+: My profile here is simply one that people come to from the comments I leave here and there on the web. I have no use for it otherwise, again, because none of my friends are active here.
LinkedIn: Even though it is touted as the biggest professional networking website in the world, I haven’t seen a single example of LinkedIn actually getting someone a job he couldn’t have otherwise. Sure, many recruiting HRs have gotten in touch with me via LinkedIn but none of these connections have ever helped me get an interview invite with a firm I’d like to get into. LinkedIn is pretty successful abroad because people work hard to build contacts in their industry, whereas in India, things hardly work this way.
When I first thought I would write on the current topic, I thought I’d write down a couple of sentences for every website and be done in a medium-size post. I was clearly wrong!