Sunday, June 21, 2015

From Consumers to Producers - The Indian Story - Part 5 - Social Media

Social Media

When Facebook was launched in 2004, I had started teaching in the Department Communication and Journalism, at the University of Mumbai. I remember my first lecture. I was afraid that I would embarrass myself. I had never faced a bunch of 20 youngsters together in my life. But I suppose the lecture went off well, because the then Head of the Department, Dr. Sanjay Ranade, did ask me to continue!

My students and I used to communicate with each other using Yahoo Groups, and Orkut. Remember Orkut? I am sure at least some of you do. It was fun, being on Orkut, creating groups, and interacting with so many friends. I know my students used to gossip a lot about the faculty. It was a lot of fun, and the first social media that we really used, apart from the Yahoo Groups, usually for exchange of notes and announcements.

We were not used to blogging much. I did start a few blogs, but was never really consistent till I have started writing everyday on this blog for the last 2 weeks. MySpace, which was launched in 2003, never gained much popularity at least here, in India. When Facebook was launched in 2004, we all thought it was another fad. First Orkut, then Facebook, and then there would be probably something else later. But no, Facebook caught the fancy of the young, and became insanely popular. Social media is almost synonymous with Facebook now. The award winning YouTube arrived in 2005, and was quickly bought by Google in 2006. It also became hugely popular, because of its very original software, which allowed people to upload their videos and show them to anyone online.

LinkedIn was launched in 2002, but became popular a little later. If Facebook is a site for fun, LinkedIn gained status as a platform for professionals to seek jobs, exchange thoughts and ideas. Twitter was launched in 2006, and we all know how popular it is and how it works. We also have Pinterest and Instagram, and scores of apps online and on mobile phones. Social media really took off when Internet became accessible on the mobile phones and people became really addicted to social media. Today probably the most popular is WhatsApp. Almost everyone I know is on it... all the time.

It has changed the way we communicate, and hence, it has changed the way we live. Studies have shown how excessive use of social media has led to several problems, like Social Media Anxiety Disorder, Cyberbullying, extreme addiction, and even schizophrenic behaviour.

My personal view, as I have written in a previous post is that in a few generations, we will be able to handle media better, use it for productivity rather than just for fun. I am sure, the humankind will not allow itself to deteriorate to extinction! We are the greatest survivors after all.

But to keep with the theme of this series of posts, computers, Internet, cameras and social media, have evolved together. While the speed of PCs developed, the other supporting hardware and software developed too. And all this time, for the last 40 odd years, we have been progressively become content creators, becoming more and more independent of the traditional media to communicate with each other, and with the world. The Internet itself, according to me, was born out of this need to communicate, to enable two-way communication when the traditional media prevented us from doing so. There are so many connotations to this, but more in another post.

Till then, keep reading, and please do comment.