Social networks

Elsa Franco Al Ghaslan

Published — Wednesday 19 December 2012

Last update 18 December 2012 9:31 pm

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As far as I am concerned, computers have been a cause for awe as well as (at the beginning) uneasiness and even suspicion. After offering some strong resistance at first, I had to give in because I couldn’t help recognizing their utility, especially if one writes a lot. I also willingly accepted the existence of e-mailing, because it makes one exchange news very quickly. As most of my closest friends live overseas, it used to take ages to correspond on a regular basis. After the advent of e-mail, though, things started to run very quickly, for the joy of millions. I would now like to briefly examine some of these recent ways of communicating, and try to detect the possible reasons why they have become so popular. Many professional surveys have already successfully been carried out, but this, here, is a simple gathering of my own observations, as well as an invitation for you to make your personal ones, if you consider it worthwhile.
Let us start with the “grandfather”: E-mail. It is defined as a system for sending and receiving messages electronically between personal computers.
When you send an e-mail, then, you communicate with “one” friend (let’s not include here “forward” etc.). So, e-mailing concerns YOU and ANOTHER.
But things have progressed, giving birth to Facebook, a popular social networking website that allows users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family etc. Here the field has been greatly widened. You use it to tell your friends things about yourself and also read stuff that your friends post. It is a sort of exchange where you enjoy letting others “know” what you do and do not do, like and don’t like. So far so good. The situation changes a bit when you realize that your Facebook “friends” are not just your pals and family. Most of them are simple acquaintances. You meet someone and … you become buddies! They do not “really” care about you, as you do not care about them. You (and they, too) just like to have more people on your “list”. Why? Do you feel the need to be more popular? Do you believe that your true friends are not enough to make your life more complete? Thus, on Facebook, we have YOU and OTHERS.
Finally ... Twitter! This is an enormously popular instant messaging system that lets a person send brief text messages to a list of followers. It is designed as a social network to keep friends (and whomever else) informed about you, throughout the day. Here the range is getting wider. Not only “friends” are included in your list, also colleagues, acquaintances and … whoever else (mostly strangers), get to know about your daily activities. Twitter became then “viral” when users initiated “re-tweeting,” i.e. forwarding tweets to their followers. People re-tweet to pass on information, and the ease of doing it can quickly build large audiences. Now, here the interaction is minimal, from what I understand. Here there is ONLY YOU. Out of curiosity, I have had a short-lived twitter account just to find out what it is and how it works. The impression I got is that it fulfills the individual need to become a star who is “followed” by many admirers. From what I understand, some use Twitter to keep others informed about almost every action they perform in their lives, while some (flip side of the coin) use it to read about what happens in other people’s lives. A sort of a “read-only” reality show.
I enjoy modernity, I adore Word program, I love e-mail, I use Facebook … Therefore I am not here to criticize, judge or condemn. I am simply intrigued by seeing how times have changed and how people, who once were contented with communicating with one person (usually a dear one) at the time, exchanging not only news but also feelings, are now totally wired toward expressing themselves in front of “an audience.”
I hope that the following words by Einstein will not become reality: “I fear the day when technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of fools.”

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