Monday, February 26, 2007

Social Networking or Evesdropping...

Not too long ago, I was IMing with a friend oversees and came to know about the latest fad called ORKUT. I admit, that I had not heard about it earlier in spite of being a computer savvy, email addicted 21st century young adult(yes, I still consider myself young!). I had seen a couple of social networking websites before (eg. Linked In) but didn't really care much about them. Upon receiving an invitation from that friend to join, I joined the orkut network.
First of all, it was by invitation only, which makes you feel special(just for a few seconds though). Another reason was just plain curiosity to find out why is everybody talking about it .

After joining, you try and fill out your profile(hmm...what can I write to make other people visiting my profile think I am really cool). You come up with a decent profile for yourself and in the process visit your friends and friend's friends profiles. You realize that you need to join a few communities too to back up the passions and interests listed in your profile. You notice that there is something called scrapbook. Initially I thought scrap book is something that you write your own. Some thoughts that cross your mind, latest events in your life which you want to share with your 'network', funny thing that your kids said etc etc.
Soon I received my first scrap book entry from a friend and realized that my assumption was completely incorrect. Scrap book is for your friends or any stranger for that matter to write messages for you. They are 'not so instant' messages to get in touch with you. I visited my friends scrap book to write a reply and ended up reading most of the messages in her scrap book(all the time feeling like I was stealing something or doing something that I am not supposed to do). I was shocked to find out that I can just visit any one's scrap book and read all the messages that are intended for them. This total lack of privacy was scary. I found a few more old friends through her scrap book that I had lost touch with.

Slowly but surely I got almost addicted to visiting orkut once or twice a day. Mainly to find out
who has visited my profile, to get a snapshot of friends lives, to see who they are currently friends with, who has the maximum number of people in their friend list(and keep wondering how one can manage over 400 friends!!!Does our social status really depend upon number of friends?). I can't help but wonder why is orkut currently so popular and why is Google associated with it. I realized that the very first impression I had about orkut being a zero privacy networking site is what is drawing people towards it and where else is Google going to find out all the personal information about millions of people effortlessly which is ultimately going to make them more profitable. The reason I did not like Orkut was the reason which kept me a regular visitor to the site.
we are humans and if other humans are sharing their lives with the world like an open book then we can't help but eves drop. Creators of Orkut know that human nature very well I guess.

Only time will tell if popularity of the website will continue to grow or die down slowly. Personally speaking, I know I wont be a regular visitor six months from now.