Social networking sites: Valuable or a waste of time?

Social networking sites have gained huge popularity in recent years. Today names like Face book, MySpace and Twitter have become household names. Facebook reported an amazing 500 million members in July, 2010 and is the most popular social networking site. Most of the users are undoubtedly the younger generation of the populace. We have heard of everything from social networking site addicts to people losing their jobs due to their posts on those sites. So it leads to the question- Are social networking sites valuable assets to us or is it a waste of time.

Social networking sites, as the name suggests, are virtual communities where users create their own page and is linked with friends, families and people with common interests. Users can post comments, photos, videos, send mail, debate on various topics and much more. Basically the idea is to get connected to your social network. It is heaven sent to people living far away from their friends and families. Social networking sites also extend beyond friends and families in the form of various groups and pages. This is where people sharing common views get together, discuss and debate over various issues. Social networking sites have created a virtual meeting place for all these people. Ashish Shrestha who is studying abroad says, "Social networking sites have helped me keep in touch with my family and friends. I can be updated with a click of a button".

Social networking site is also a virtual platform. It provides the users with an arena to show case their talents and promote their businesses. Advertisements and business group pages are now common in the social networking sites. This is a huge advantage to the businessmen and other specific uses owing to the popularity of the social networking sites. 

It is not uncommon for young people now-a-days to be indulged in social networking sites. Internet has become a big part of their lives. Addiction to social networking sites has become common. Social network has habituated them into getting updates so often. With all the new photos and updates a person may feel like a social outcast if he/she doesn’t have a account in an social networking sites.

We have heard of our friends just going through old photos or just refreshing their Facebook page for new updates without really doing anything. There are many people who check their hi5 accounts the first thing in the morning. We spend most of our time worrying about other people’s lives and status updates. The same time could have been spent for doing something productive like studying for exams or cleaning our room.  Siddhartha Baral said, “I closed off my face book wall so that no one could post. It’s really distracting sometimes.”

Social networking sites use their huge popularity for commercial purpose also. It is not unusual for us to see an advertisement in their sites. Various businesses take advantage of this to create their own profiles and in some cases spam also. There are social networking sites which are advertisement free such as hi5, Yahoo! 360 or Orkut but these are few in number compared to the ones that have advertisement in them.

In workplaces and colleges social networking sites have been a hazard. Employees using Facebook when they should have been working or students using hi5 in classroom are not a new thing. Most of these places have Facebook blocked as social networking sites have been a distraction for them. They are wasting valuable minutes engrossed in these sites when they should have been working or studying. I asked some students whether they used any social networking sites in class sometimes. They replied sometimes they do while some replied that facebook and other social networking sites were blocked in their college network.

Like anything else what you get out of social networking sites depends on the way we use them. Like Ashish, Siddhartha and others we asked they were happy as well as skeptical on the advent of social networking sites. These sites have great potential to both improve and degrade the society. According to them it all depends on the users and I believe so too.

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