Online Infection!!

It was a month past a year of my stay in South Korea. I was filled with exhilaration on a sunny day as we ganged up to climb Mudeung-san. The conversation within hikers kicked off with usual introductory greetings and dumb smiles since some of us were new to each other.  One of them said “Hii..nice to meet you…..bla bla bla..So..do you have a Facebook account?.” He talked the Facebook up for five minutes while I was wondering what on Earth is Facebook a subject to talk about? Finally he said “See you there!.”

What? you mean it’s not your ‘thing’ to communicate in the real world? I said to myself since I was bedazzled.

The concept of social networking dates back to 1800 when sociologists like Ferdinand Tönnies made very first efforts to define it as groups that can exist personal and direct social ties that either link individuals who share values and belief or impersonal, formal, and instrumental social links. But in the recent past online social networking has rebelliously altered the above definition. Let us say that Facebook semi era has changed the perception of internet usage. Nevertheless it has also laid solid grounds for narcissists to boost their low self esteem. Every other individual’s random thought, moment, emotions, nodes, and ideas get instantly connected with others that can be unnecessary and nuisance to many. While contradicting shout-outs such as ” I am too busy…”, “Hell lot of  work”, “Today is my birthday”, “that awkward moment when my FB status go unnoticed” display an obvious symptom of attention deficiency, some tend to project an alter image of them. Also, peculiar selfish predisposition of  “you scratch under my photo, I shall scratch under yours” has deepened my skepticism on so called online socialism.

How much occupied are we on Facebook?

Rather alarming it was when Mark Zuckerberg proudly announced “If Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest in the world”. With a massive social networked data available to the sociologists and cyber-psychologists,  your behavior on Facebook can become an embarrassing showpiece in CNN. Watchout! A case study of Cynthia Newton was a first jolt where in she was so addicted to Facebook that  her 12-year-old daughter’s request for help in her homework went unnoticed. So the daughter wrote an e-mail to Newton but Newton ignored it since she was busy in Facebook! According to another report published in Journal of European Psychiatry, a women lost her job as a waitress because she frequently skipped her work in order to check her Facebook updates. Both Cynthia Newton and the latter displayed mild anxiety, sleep disturbances and depression.

 For the individuals who feel some social interactions challenging in the real world, virtual reality like Facebook come handy since their thoughts are expressed in written formats which avoid face to face interaction and make them feel confident. As a result one tends to prefer virtual world rather than the real one which may lead to seclusion and introversion. It is interesting to note that some healthy individuals display tendency towards narcissism upon their increased exposure to Facebook.

A new project named Social Heart study by epidemiologist  Mark Pletcher at UCSF and behavioral geneticist James Fowler at UCSD aims at accessing the cardiovascular health of an individual based on his Facebook activity such as likes, comments and status updates. Rather bigger science news of 2011 was a publication in Proceedings of Royal Society of Biological Sciences which reveals that certain specific brain regions of individuals with bigger number of Facebook friends tend be more occupied than the others with less Facebook friends. These brain regions respond only to virtual reality and show bigger occupancy when compared to their real world counter part regions. Implications indicate complications.

Why do we behave so?

Some might argue that Facebook has become a routine as much as air conditioners and room heaters. Many have accepted it as a part of life. However we need to consider the social networks as a lens for others to see you as an individual. It is not a machine that you interact with mechanically. Although all social networks fall in a category, we tend to behave according to the “settings” of a particular social networking website. Unfortunately open wall, likes and comment options on photos and status messages have become potential tools to groom fools and vainglorious narcissists in Facebook. While posting and self embracing pictures, using all the wits and wills to draw out as much attention and replies as possible from the equally sallow-eyed e-friends have become trend, some cyber-psychologists see it differently. Michael Fenichel elaborates Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD), a diagnosable disorder that may enter DSM-5 under the social networking disorder category very soon.

Call it a trend, a social disease or addiction but our behavior is ultimately governed by complex network of immortal entities that always seek benefits. Consciously or unconsciously these entities order the human brain to loiter around, interact, socialize, calculate, take risk, sacrifice and even display altruism on a social platform to gain content, satisfaction, revenge, gratitude, and mental peace. These entities are called as…………………………. the “selfish genes”.