Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Evolution Behind The Keyboard: Internet Warriors And Unknowing Narcissists

The internet has been a fundamental part of our lives ever since it started evolving globally in the nineties. Before then, maintaining contact with friends or family far and wide was costly and time consuming. Nowadays, all one needs is a computer and even the slowest (I mean, er, standard) of internet connections opens up a whole world of information, entertainment and communication. Aside from finding out what is happening around the world in current events through news and educational sites, people have discovered they can become somebody they may not necessarily be or behave like in the 'real' world. Since making their debut, social networking sites have had a vast impact on the majority of the world's internet usage, and a new online trend occurs practically every year. While some may go online to browse or 'surf' the web (although this is somewhat becoming an ancient practice usually now only left for either the elderly that learnt how to operate a mouse and keyboard or people who actually want to learn something new about the world they reside in), others merely jump at the chance to log on to their favourite social networking site to devour the profiles of their friends or see what the latest gossip is amongst acquaintances. I would prefer to refer to these as cyber-friends. You know those people who seem to add almost everyone they know (read: barely know/have never met) and just have to have the most people on their friends list out of anyone else, because if they dare have less than 300 they fear they will be deemed 'losers' by society? (Note: society is too broad to care about one selfish egotistical individual). Well, while some of those people may genuinely have a minimum of 50-100 friends they regularly keep in contact with, the majority of them do not engage in relationships or friendships with those people on a deeper, more heartfelt level. While it can be an ego boost to log on and see an odd 410 names on your friends list, in reality, how many of those 'friends' are part of your everyday, offline lives? How many of those people do you meet up for a regular coffee or go out on the town with? Society these days seems to put too much emphasis on who you are in cyberspace, rather than seeing you for who you are and how many people you have good friendships and connections with when you're not sitting behind a screen isolated in a room (or out and about on your mobile posting numerous random, nonsense updates in a bid to appear like someone is texting you 24/7). When it comes to the internet (social networking sites in particular such as Myspace or Facebook) people can create a seemingly new identity of themselves, but also retain some of their real persona. The majority of people who utilize Myspace or Facebook do it for practical communication with loved ones and to catch up on what is going on with friends that live far away, or whom they haven't seen in a very long time (eg. childhood/school friends). In other words, they use it for what it was designed for in the first place. Others try to use it as a tool to market themselves in a bid to appear popular or powerful in the cyber realm, and hope that their profile and friends list can mirror their offline depiction at least to some extent. Since networking sites are dominated by younger generations - primarily highschoolers and university students - there can be a lot of controversy or socially unacceptable behaviour that occurs behind a computer screen, but would never dare occur face to face or over the phone. For example that quiet, innocent girl that used to sit in front of you in English class would never utter a word unless spoken to first. Online, this girl would be unrecognisable if you hadn't met her at school. She portrays herself as a loud, outgoing, opinionated character via status updates or comments posted to others. This is not so bad - if you don't like what she has to say, delete her or simply do not pay attention to each of her 30 odd status updates per day. But then you discover another side to this so called sweet girl - she develops into an online bully, by posting nasty comments to those she perceives as weaker (only online of course, because in real life she's actually nice to or intimidated by the people she's mean to when not standing face to face with) or commenting negatively on somebody's photo when in all reality, there is nothing wrong with the picture. Thus it looks like you can learn a lot about a person online in a way too. One of the easiest types of people to uncover are the annoying attention seekers that think the world revolves around them. No one wants to read about what you had for lunch, or whether it's raining - we have windows, we can see for ourselves. People who excessively use social networking sites tend to unknowingly become narcissists. Why? Just take a look at anyone's profile, or their status updates: "John just woke up. John just had eggs for breakfast. John just tripped over his own feet." It's all John, John, John. Why not post something more than unnecessary, everyday information that no one needs to read? Did I log onto Facebook to find out that you had some slimy spaghetti for lunch? I think not. (For the record, I'd like to retain my love for spaghetti and not be put off it evermore by reading your gory meal descriptions of one of my favourite foods). I applaud those who use these kind of sites with a level of maturity and only tend to post actually exciting, if at times, enviable news: Amanda is standing right underneath the Eiffel Tower eating Frogs legs! Now, that is the kind of stuff these sites should be made of (well, perhaps not so much the frogs legs part, but you get my drift). So to all you "John's" out there, one simple, over-used piece of advice - stop over sharing insignificant things that happen to us all, and get a life! And to all you 'innocent girls in English class', if you have something to say to someone - say it to their face. Then we'll see how 'tough' or opinionated you really are.