On issues that matter …

Of one billion virtual faces… October 4, 2012

It’s official. One in every 7 persons on earth is now on Facebook. Yes, that’s just over a billion people.

It’s a weird feeling knowing that I have such a definitive and intimate common thread connecting me to so many people around the world.

I am what Facebook would qualify as an ‘active’ user since I fall under the category of those who use it at least once a month.

I would say it’s a bit misleading though. True, I do access my Facebook account more than once a month prompted as I am by the ‘notification’ reminders that I get from Facebook. But that is all that I have with Facebook – an account. No profile, no pictures, no posts, no friends, no chats, no links, pokes, nothing. I am not a Facebook user, just an account holder.

There must a sociological theory to explain behavior such as mine wherein I feel the need not to be seen as a freak in contemporary society, but view ‘trend-wise’ cultural phenomena with snobbish disdain. I still prefer direct relationships to virtual ones, and don’t believe in ‘reconnecting’ with lost friends with the argument that if a relationship was valued enough I would not have lost connection in the first place.

But I would not qualify as a media critique if I didn’t recognize the in-your-face reality of social media and social networking, of virtual communities, of shifting power centers in media, of multi-dimensional media messages, of dissipating conventional theories of propaganda, agenda setting, persuasion, framing and gatekeeping.

As the digital divide narrows and knowledge gaps reduce, it is the audience/viewers/readers who will not only decide what they want from the media, but actively create and contribute to the media, giving new definition to the idea of uses and gratification.

The quintessential bourgeois debates in the elite European salons and coffee houses of the pre-World War II era have come back in an entirely new avatar as virtual public spheres, not with bourgeois debates but vigorous and aggressive proletarian debates on contemporary pan-global issues.

In the virtual world, geographies obviously are redundant. In the free-floating world of web connections, I am at once a part of the Arab Spring, a sympathizer of the anti-austerity protests in Europe, a participant in the American Presidential debate, a discursive debater in the Indian political milieu and vicarious red carpet gawker in Hollywood.

It’s fun for most part in the virtual world, but rapidly evolving into serious business for all stakeholders in the real world. I know I will be part of it as it happens – rather I am a part of it, simply by being one of those one billion.

Srirekha Chakravarty


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