Friday, February 25, 2011

Facebook, reducing people's face time with book

Social networking sites are a huge hit. Even before they officially go worldwide, they hit the jackpot! So huge are the number of active users worldwide, they acquire cult status so soon, rather prematurely. The status quo is such that without social networking sites our life becomes humdrum. And with the ever increasing population of netizens, we inject new life into these sites.

Soon after Bhutan crossed the threshold of the 21st century, it found itself entering an entirely unique world-a world of sophisticated users of Charles Babbage’s invention-and catching up with the rest of the world. These ubiquitous machines are portable and performed miracles.

Reading they say is a noble habit if not the noblest. Books they say are men’s best friends. Book-Best Offer on Knowledge, so have I read when I was but a young kid. Today we are in for a completely different scenario. Social networking sites like Facebook have taken centre stage and have sidelined books into dingy corners where they silently collect dust. It’s a pity pages cannot talk, for if they do we would have a different tale to tell.

Reading habit in Bhutan amongst children is very dismal; amongst adults it’s no better. It is too disheartening. Books have lost their charm except for few bookworms who prefer to lie on a couch, sit in the shade or best, lie on a reclining chair and read their favorite authors. It is now not untypical to find the majority with laptops and mobiles and computers- all too busy social networking rather than reading books. This is an eye-sore. Reading has become obsolete. Books remain where and how they are-untouched and unread! Best-selling authors fade and their bestsellers go unheard.

I had my first tryst with Facebook when I was in my first year in college. I was fascinated. I would send messages, chat with my friends, find lost friends, and meet cousins, stalk on my exes and remember my friends’ birthdays. The very day I joined, I sent 50 ‘Friend Requests’ to both known and unknown.

Few months after registration, I came to realize it was eating a good chunk of my time daily. The more you ‘Facebook’, the more you want to. It is addictive. Zuckerberg has flavoured it with a pint of Nicotine. For many, checking Facebook for messages and updates is the first thing they do in the morning even before they head to the washroom. We have now become so dependent on Facebook that a few days away from it gives us withdrawal symptoms.

Young kids should be reading but their ruling passion now is Facebook. This generation has been weaned on computer games and Facebook. They are completely oblivious of the book resources around them. And therefore they are ill-informed. Occasionally I have this recurring feeling, ‘If now is not the right time to wean them off Facebook, then when?’ There is no time like the present.

Recently decades-old regimes in the Arab world have fallen. Facebook played a pivotal role. Global thinkers have called youthful protesters who used Facebook to organize massive protests on the streets as ‘Facebook children.' No wonder “Youth and technology” have been defined as two of the most powerful forces changing the world today.

People who work in offices are also deep into Facebook. Non-Facebook users are few and far between. Some ministries have banned Facebook during office hours. A very wise move indeed. But more often than not, public servants, or any office-goers for that matter, signing in into Facebook, MSN, Twitter et al the first thing in the morning is a daily ritual. And since June 2009, people have begun managing virtual farms in their offices. Wish Farmville could solve the problem of food insecurity and poverty!

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