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Social Media

Its been two days since LinkedIn went public and the stock has more than doubled in value in this time. I started using LinkedIn very recently after someone explained to me how important it is in the professional circles. Facebook is yet to go public and is touted to do a better job than what LinkedIn has done so far. You will find a lot more people who are more qualified who have written a financial analysis of this, so I'll try to analyse what makes these social networking sites so big and successful, focusing mainly on Facebook and Twitter and leaving out the one that got me thinking in the first place, LinkedIn, as I'm still new to it. Before you read further, I should warn you that this contains only my perspective (a South-Indian Engineering student) and not a comprehensive study. So feel free to put in your take on it in the comments section.

First, let us see what draws people to these social networking sites like Homer Simpson to food. It is a platform for all the shy and introverts to express themselves with relatively less inhibitions. These people find it liberating to use the services of these social networking sites as they have finally found a means to express themselves and communicate freely with others. It is also a place where the guys who find themselves a part of the excess that make up the disproportionate sex ratios in colleges look to find their potential girlfriends, wives, or whatever else they have in mind. It is also a place where people share their pictures. My Facebook friends alone upload about a hundred pictures a week on an average! It is a place to keep an eye on what your friends(?) are upto without actually letting them know (the sentence shouts 'Stalking' loud enough I hope). Of course, it is a means to kill time (yes kill is the word if you can spare even a few minutes for the likes of Farmville) for a few. More recently, it has increasingly become a place where companies make their presence felt, taking advantage of the tendency of an average person to 'Like' at least ten different things in a day (It is every marketer's dream to get his product to go viral on a social networking site!).
There are two kinds of people online: Those who are overly active (the ones that update their status ten times a day and update their profile picture at equal frequency), and those who despise the site itself (the ones that claim they have an account just for the sake of it). Well, the latter ones are just like the fox that concluded 'the grapes are sour'. They just haven't adapted to the change in means to socialize and don't appreciate what these sites have to offer and definitely don't realise what they're missing.
Naysayers claim the advent of social media is killing the niceties of the old when people used to call up and wish on birthdays instead of wishing on Facebook/Twitter and the like. That is just not true. We still call up people on their birthdays, but now thanks to social media, we also wish those who we're not close enough to call.
A lot of people tell me they use social media to keep in touch with people they already know. I don't think you need social media to do that. To keep in touch with people you know, there's e-mail, SMS and what not. To stalk people yo know, on the other hand, you need social media. But, it is very helpful to meet new people. This, according to me, is the foremost advantage of the social media. Meeting new people. Everybody is extremely busy these days. It is hard enough to find time to have a nice long conversation (let alone meet up) with people you're close to. It will let you find people who're going to the same college that you're going to join soon or who're working at the company you're about to join, and interact with them. Also, if you're really stressed out and need to unwind (half the people feel this way half the time), you can find someone similar to you and you can probably go out for a beer and abuse each other's bosses. A lot of people are working for the best part of the day and find themselves alone for the remaining part. It is definitely better to find new friends on the social media than take the Vodafone advertisements that read 'Are you feeling lonely? Call me @ Rs9/min.' seriously! I don't even have to mention the news feed on these sites! The TV news channels that work for TRPs can be switched off permanently if you follow the right people in the social media.
The $50bn+ valuation of Facebook and the response to the IPO of LinkedIn are justified indeed. Social media is the way forward. I pity those who feel they're above all this 'social media riff-raff'.

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