I was meant to write this piece earlier after having read CS Monitor's article on a premier social network site, Facebook. But it never took off, until recently. When someone dearest of mine starts addicting to Facebook. Notice I jolt down "addicting" instead of "using." It is one thing to "use" the network to "connect," it is another thing to spend 15-hour day on such networking.
Humans are inherently hierarchical social beings. It's a scientifically proven fact that socializing brings forth the survival of the fittest, given chance to parenthood and the passing of the genes. Specifically, we are hierarchical social beings since we tend to socialize amongst known companion of similar background, interest and social hierarchy. In modern days, socializing means opportunities, jobs, love, and perhaps even marriage for some. But to socialize face-to-face in person, one has to be bold, reckless and perhaps a bit of luck in order to turn a thin thread of initial impression into a firm, trusting relationship, the course of which is a challenging hardship, but with fruitful rewards.
With the advent of Internet, the traditional method of face-to-face contact is no longer a requisite. Being tangible is no longer the "norm," when a simple access to the Information Highway would do. Anonymity becomes the new icebreaker between strangers and catchy topic on a forum instantly transforms into the new Mecca in the digital era. An era where a connection happens in a split second on a social network. It feels great to be connected with friends, interwoven in a vast network of supposed relationships and befriend with strangers whom may share only the slightest of interests. The persuasive power of a social network is tantamount. Its irresistible charm of connecting friends is as sweet as it gets. All these "virtual" friends sure to keep you company and instill a sense of utmost belonging when they're in fact hollow, intangible and merely imagination at work. I learned this lesson when I stupidly registered an Orkut account (similar to Facebook, but from Google,) and started dressing it up like Barbie dolls, and repeatedly logging in to see who left a message. Fortunately, with the cumulative experience of first-hand gaming addiction, the onset withdrawal instinct surfaced just as my journey began down the path of no return. I pulled away from social network and never looked back.
So I say, be careful. Social networking is addictive especially when curiosity overcome self restraint. Not only does it keep you in check, it is also addictive, especially with the whole complement of site renovation and photo uploading capabilities, it is as dangerous as online gaming. If there is still time, my suggestion to the regular user would be to pull away from social network and do some real, constructive, tangible network. At the end of day, you would feel better and thank me a thousand times over. :)