Relationships: Are your Internet admirers real?

You have certainly heard a lot about how technology is making human life a much better experience. When it comes to communications technology, it is often argued that it has actually narrowed the world into a sort of global village.
Visitors at one of the many cyber cafes (Net photo).
Visitors at one of the many cyber cafes (Net photo).

You have certainly heard a lot about how technology is making human life a much better experience. When it comes to communications technology, it is often argued that it has actually narrowed the world into a sort of global village.

But do you really believe this entire hullabaloo about technology is bringing us together? May be it is just an advertising illusion. Actually I am convinced that technology is simply formulating for us ways to ‘keep in touch’ without necessarily ‘being in available’.

Many Internet users are now members of the numerous Social networking sites and chat rooms. Chat rooms usually have several users, many using anonymous identities to converse with ‘strangers’ miles away.

Related to the chat rooms is what we call Social Networking websites. These sites register members and once one is registered then they can browse through the lists of members for people they know or those they want to be friends with.

One also has the option of inviting people to join the network if at all they were not members in the first place. These days, the social networking sites have become so widespread and many Internet users belong to at least one with some being members to over five different sites.

As an Internet user, I remember first joining www.graduates.com, a website that has got a list of schools and universities.

Once logged to this site, one can opt for his/her country, then his former school and register clearly stating the year of graduation.

Therefore with time, one can be able to stay in touch with people he went to school with and even more interesting those who were in the same class.

Later on, I learnt of another popular website, even among Rwandans is www.hi5.com. This was created and is owned by Ramu Yalamanchi. It offers them a chance to create an online profile showing their interests, age and hometown as well as uploading pictures.

Users can also send friend requests via email to other users. If the user accepts another user as a friend, the two will be connected directly.

In this case, each of them will also be able to see the profiles of the other friends. One’s profile may be viewed only by his/her friends or by everybody using the service depending on the privacy settings that one may have activated.

Another very popular online social networking service is www.myspace.com. This was created by Thomas Anderson and Christopher DeWolfe but it is now owned by News Corporation, a large media company owned by Rupert Murdoch, the famous Australian-American media billionaire.

It offers an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, Blogs, groups, photos, music and videos. It is one the most user friendly networking sites.

According to Alexa Internet, MySpace is currently the world’s sixth most popular English-language website and the sixth most popular website in any language.

It has actually increasingly become an influential part of contemporary popular culture, especially in English speaking countries. The site reportedly attracts new registrations at a rate of 230,000 per day. As of September 7, 2007, there were over 200 million accounts.

The most recent entrant to the melee of social networking sites is Facebook which can be accessed at www.facebook.com.

It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, a 23 year old Harvard graduate. Initially the membership was restricted to students of Harvard College, Boston College, and Boston University and other Ivy League schools and universities. The site is said to be having over 39 million users world wide.

In the recent past, joining sites like Facebook, Hi5 or Myspace is more like a craze. The so called benefits that these sites offer are often just illusionary.

Among other things, the sites tend to offer the users a distance that encourages members to behave in ways they would not in person.

In other words there is some sort of dual personality held by the users and this undermines the essence of these sites which is supposed to be bringing people together.

As if that is not enough, these sites have been criticised by some observers for being addictive, time consuming. One who is addicted to these sites ends up having no time for real life relationships, as they are always online smiling and frowning at a computer screen instead of a real person.

To sum it all up, these sites give us a false impression that we are in touch with others yet in the actual sense they simply give us access to a member’s life, without giving the time needed to maintain such relationships.

These relationships do not possess the depth of in-person attachment. So get off that computer and go find yourself some ‘real friends’.

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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