Facebook – a black hole of time?

Facebook is a huge phenomenon, that took the world by storm. Just when everybody was getting tired of Orkut, and sharing was limited to IMs and Emails, Facebook emerged with a solution to it all. It has email – your Facebook username works as an email id (username@facebook.com). It has chat, with video calling too! It has ways of sharing your thoughts, ideas, and your day-to-day activities so much so that it has shrunk the general perception of people’s privacy.

In the early days of Facebook (the last days of MySpace), Google became aware of what was happening and tried remodeling Orkut… and failed miserably. Anything Google tried doing with Orkut seemed like it was trying to create a Facebook clone – a bad one at that. Orkut had never taken off outside of Brazil and India. With the advent of Facebook, began the decline of Orkut there too.

While all of this may sound like an excellent advertisement for Facebook, it is not. Facebook has affected productivity and many studies have shown that employers have seen a decline in productivity compared to time before Facebook. Facebook is a black hole of time – I cannot think of one useful thing that I do on Facebook! Facebook reminds me of my friends’ birthdays; so I don’t take that extra effort to remember. It has somehow become acceptable to wish someone on their birthday on their “Wall”, as opposed to a call – telecom companies suffer meanwhile.

If you haven’t noticed, the right sidebar of your Facebook page is now filled with advertisements. If you are a business owner, you would do well if you published your ad on Facebook. Why? Because Facebook knows when I bought my last motorcycle (from my status), it knows my computer, it knows I’m a tech freak (because I link to a lot of Tech websites). It knows what exactly to sell me – well, mostly. Individual ad targeting is what a company would want. I never see an ad about a lipstick or a mascara – why? Because Facebook knows that I’m less likely to click on an ad of Lakme or Maybelline! So, every hour you spend on Facebook, some body makes money – no points for realizing that it is not YOU!

Another very sad thing about what Facebook has done is, that it has generated a false sense of action. I have seen many requests to “support a cause” – “Save the Tiger”, “Help Earth”, “Feed the poor” – so on and so forth. While the intention is noble, I quote my good friend who runs an NGO called Vanamitra (meaning, Friend of the Forest), recently posted on Facebook (ironically) – “Facebook has sadly resulted in a prolific increase in Armchair Activists”. Clicking “Support Cause” on Facebook does very little to help, but people I think, are experiencing a false satisfaction having been led to believe that they have helped in some way – NO – clicking on a button on a website does not count as helping!

Here’s an idea for Facebook – Why not verify these causes and donate an amount towards that cause each time a person supports it? Then maybe clicking “Support” makes sense!

All said, will this stop me from using Facebook? Maybe not, but I hope to audit how much time I spend on it and cut down to bare minimum. Like I have said before, Facebook is definitely bringing the world closer and at the same time, distancing relationships further.

Communication: from pigeons to facebook!

“Communication is the art of bringing a smile upon the face of the person listening to you”

On the historical front:

Communication can be conceived as the corner stone for civilization. A civilized world is unimaginable without communication between the species. Ever since the early days, man, a social being has interacted with his environment by some form of communication. The medium of communication being sound, actions, crude drawings in the early days to speech, music, writing, acting, singing and so on, in the modern world.

Investigating further, when we try to draw a chronology of advancements in the media of communication, history has taught us how man used mud paints on the caves during early civilizations. Perhaps at the same time, there existed a crude non-structured interchange (spoken or symbolic).

In the course of millions of years, an established code of communication emerged into the society – the language. Language was distinguished mainly geographically; meaning, people belonging to a specific region communicated in a specific language. Over the course of time, this barrier began to diminish and with this there was a need for better media of communication.

On the technological front:

Until a few decades ago, written form of communication was predominant as a tool to send a message across where a ‘runner’ (the modern day postman) would carry the letter from the sender to the receiver. During this period, animals such as dogs and birds like pigeons were also trained to deliver these messages.

All this changed drastically once the first electronic message was transmitted over a telegraph. It was transmitted over electronic signals, encoded using the Morse code. Following soon, there was the telephone which could carry voice over electronic signals. From then on, the entire outlook of how the world communicated changed forever.

The convergence of space programs, innovations in technology and the necessity of ad-hoc communication systems laid the foundation for wireless and mobile telephony over satellites. Another milestone in communication systems was the birth of the internet. People can now communicate “almost” at the speed of thought.

That said, the research and innovation in the field of communication is still an ongoing voyage and promises to bring many surprises ahead.

On the social front:

As we spoke earlier, it is fair to deduce that communication has made man a social being and enabled the formation of civilizations. Man has always looked at his fellow beings for happiness, support and solitude. Having said that, the psychology of communication has changed.

If you were to ask your grandparents, you’ll mostly hear them say how they used to send letters; wait for days for the replies. Even though it was tedious, people were constantly in touch and everyone felt it was cheerful to write and receive letters.

However, the scenario is much different now. Owing a lot to mobile telephony and the internet, people are constantly ‘on the grid’. Nevertheless, it has become an obligation to stay in touch more than the sanguinity involved.

Things have worsened with the emerging of social networking websites like Myspace, Orkut and Facebook, where people boast of the number of friends they have on their profile page, yet knowing very little about each of them; let alone having met each one in person. The real sad state of affairs is how people, especially the youth, spend hours chatting with a friend across the globe, while having lesser and lesser time for family.

Technological advancements in communication have certainly helped us keep in touch with people far off. Is it also responsible for people drifting apart?