The Changing Face of Social Networking Websites

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The way we socialize has considerably changed over a very short period of time. You no more need to e-mail the photos of the last night party to multiple people, or chat for long on the phone. Simply log on to flickr or Facebook and your job is done.

Facebook was earlier just restricted to the students of the Harward University, USA now has over 1,191,373,339 monthly visitors. No doubt it is the most popular Social Networking Website (SWN) today.

What makes these sites addictive? How do they manage to attract so many people? Some research over the internet, explains that the whole idea is based on ‘narcissism’. Narcissism as defined by the Dictionary.com is ‘inordinate fascination with oneself and excessive self love’. We want the world to know about anything and everything we do. Addiction follows. This is simple, since when you post something about yourself you expect replies. When you expect replies, you keep coming back to the website. This is not it, the inherent tendency to spy and peek into other’s life is also deemed as one of the reason why people spend long hours on these websites.

A lot of apps on these websites itself, tell if you are addicted to them. But there’s a simpler formula I believe. If the rate of your logging in to these accounts exceeds the rate at which you receive scraps,comments or notifications, you just might be a target of SNW addiction!

The basic idea behind the social networking websites, was to connect old friends and make new ones. But like every business, these websites need money to keep them running. Where does this money come from? Ads that you see and applications that you use. These applications are also designed to keep you coming for more.

With rising popularities of these websites, various businesses have started to join these websites to promote their products. Be it a celebrity page, a new band releasing it first album, or a college fest, you can be it’s official fan on your favourite SNW.

But the more important question is that what is the future of SNWs ? With increasing service providers it has got difficult to manage multiple profiles for the users. You have to separately log in for Orkut, Twitter, Facebook or Blogger. At the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit 07, attended by the CEO’s of various SNWs, the common idea presented was to have a single platform where users could manage multiple profiles. That’s the technical aspect though. But to keep it popular among the people we definitely need better and fresh ideas on how we use these websites.

Something yet to get popular among the masses is Second Life. A virtual world where you can socialize, connect with new people, and buy property with some virtual money. You need to download the customized application and you are ready to go. Design your avatar, fly around the city (yes your avatar can really fly), chat with people, go on a date or shop, in brief live your second life. What scares me is that excessive engagement with the second life could adversely affect our real life, which is obviously our first priority!

Some tech authors also feel that the future devices would be more customized for the websites. So perhaps a couple of years from now, when you click a picture from your digital camera, it is directly posted on facebook or flickr. Or what music you are listening on your iPod, what show you are watching on TV would be on facebook instantly. Don’t forget to read the Privacy Policy then! Since a lot of us mix work(me included) with social networking, embedding something like Google Docs could also be a good idea.

So is it the need to connect with friends or narcissism that keeps us addicted to these websites? Do you have any new ideas that could make online social networking more cooler? Share your opinions and thoughts with me at muditbhargava09@gmail.com. It would be a pleasure hearing from you.

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