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Social Network Suicide

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 01, 2011 03:54 PM
Those disillusioned with their virtual friends circle are saying goodbye through web applications that wipe out your net identity. What’s more, you can even have your own memorial page, says Sahana Charan in this article published in the Bangalore Mirror on Sunday, February 6, 2011.

It is funny that even though some young people claim to have a thousand friends on social networking sites, they may actually never socialise with any of their virtual buddies. So when the “net” benefits don’t translate to reality, there is disillusionment. And then they may stop being active on networking sites. That’s the beauty and tragedy of virtual friendships.

And this is just one of the many reasons why your friend — who was otherwise tweeting her every mundane activity or would update her status message on Facebook every nano-second — might have suddenly become incommunicado.   

As pressures to keep up virtual appearances become taxing and unpleasant experiences make social networking sites “not-so-safe” to share intimate details, many young people are opting out of these networks, deactivating their accounts and taking web sanyaas.

Sunil Abraham, Executive Director, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore says that in India this is a relatively new phenomenon and only a small group of people have actually committed web suicide using applications that wipe out your virtual identity. But a bigger  number of netizens may be killing their networking accounts, because of a variety of resons — ranging from internet stalking to “no guaranteed benefits.”

“Many people may get onto a social networking site to use it for meeting rituals, to look for partners and to get information on jobs. When these are fulfilled they may decide to move out.  Some people realise that a lot of their time and energy goes into updating accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Myspace, but it has not helped them get ‘real world’ benefits, so they just stop being active,” says Abraham.

Virtual disappearance

With the deactivation came some applications which help you go peacefully into a social network death — Web 2.0 Suicide Machine and Sepukkoo.com promise to remove your virtual identity completely so that you can make real friends. While Suicide Machine irreversibly removes all your friends, groups, photos and vidoes one by one and joins you to its “Social Network Suiciders,” Sepukkoo goes one step ahead and creates a memorial page for you.  

What’s ironical is that you are actually going to another network and this one’s  called ‘suicide networking’, where you encourage friends to leave their social circles. Both applications have been banned by Facebook but work on other sites.

So why would a popular guy deactivate his account ? Joe V J, a 28-year-old IT professional, who was regularly uploading pictures of his new bike or parties with friends on Facebook, took himself off the site recently. He realised that people who were not meant to see his profile and candid shots, had access and were posting comments.

 “I got into the site because it was a great place to bond with friends. But then I realised that relatives and acquaintances who I had no clue about, were on the social network, had started pinging. They would look at pictures and express shock and then  tell other people. It became a little too much, so I just decided to click the deactivate option,” he says.

Privacy concerns

It can get really ugly and those being harassed online may just disappear to save their privacy. Tinu Cherian, a techie and Wikipedia administrator speaks of an incident where another administrator was harassed by a cyber troll because he had blocked this guy from making wrong updates on Wiki’s pages.

“He had no option but to wipe out his Twitter account, which was hacked into  and   damning information was uploaded.”

Privacy concerns rise as  Facebook decides to share account information with marketeers. “When Facebook first started, only 10 per cent of your information on the site could be seen by an outsider, but in 2011, 90 per cent of your information can be accessed by people other than your friends,” says Abraham.

There is another reason why people go off online networks. “When it first came, Facebook was considered the Ivy league and everyone wanted to be there. Youngsters suddenly thought Orkut was infradig and ceased to be on that site. So sometimes, people may just move out because they want to be somewhere else.”  And that’s why the networking tamasha continues.

Read the article in the Bangalore Mirror

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