B S Raghavan

Whither social networking sites?

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on January 15, 2013

I have long been puzzled as well as fascinated by the explosive growth of the social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, MySpace, Linked-In, Pinterest, Twitter, Orkut and many others with fancy names on the Internet.

There are so many of them that research surveys have given up counting. The total number of netizens using them is incomprehensibly astronomical.

Just to drive home the near-ubiquitousness of the phenomenon SNS have become, I offer some salient facts and figures for all of which I have generally relied on the latest survey results published by the Pew Internet Project, Nielson and Nielson-McKinsey Incite and Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.

As of 2012, fully 1.43 billion netizens or 25 per cent of the world’s population, are users of SNS, up by 19.2 per cent over 2011, and they constitute 69 per cent of Internet users.

Among mobile users, 40 per cent are SNS buffs. Of the total number of SNS users,, 63 per cent are men, 75 per cent women, with 92 per cent being those between 18 and 25 years of age.

To ladle out a few more facts: SNS are the greatest favourites of netizens who spend roughly 20 per cent of their total time online via personal computer, and 30 per cent of total time via mobile on SNS.

In particular, the time spent with social media on mobile apps and the mobile web has increased 63 per cent in 2012, compared to the same period last year.

Most users find the SNS convenient as a means of keeping in touch with existing and known friends and their relationships with them “in constant repair” (to borrow the words of the great literary giant of the 18th century, Samuel Johnson). More than17 per cent of users reached out to people they didn’t know and 35 per cent to people who were “friends of friends”.


No person is an island unto himself or herself, and a human being craves for companionship, and opportunities to communicate and express him(her)self, besides being moved by an inner urge to forge new friendships as also networks with persons of similar interests.

There is also the deeply felt need to be wanted and appreciated. No person is good-for-nothing and there isn’t one who doesn’t have some talent and gift which is waiting to blossom and become known, if only it can find a vehicle for it.

SNS serve all these purposes, and are available for free, and open up manifold vistas with built-in highly diversified features facilitating utilisation of every avenue for self-expression — photos, paintings, audio-videos, blogs, articles, comments, jokes, TV clips, movie trailers, music, applications, the works.

Most important of all, it provides scope for total freedom for users to exercise their ingenuity and creativity to the maximum extent to carve out their own personal niches and make them informative and attractive.

In common with the rest of the world, Indian netizens too have taken to SNS in a big way, to the extent of most of them getting addicted to them.

I have no problem with that, except for a gnawing uneasiness about the content being too amorphous and too thinly spread to lead to any solid or substantive benefits.


My doubt in this respect was dispelled by Geetha Manichandar who, as a consulting editor of Sulekha.com, a forerunner in popularising human networks through its communications site, is engaged in enriching its creative content and is an ardent user of SNS herself. She sees SNS, especially Facebook, as a “kaleidoscope creating a viral effect which expands one’s horizon of learning. I use it to share my views on books, good pieces of writing, pictures, music et al.

“Many successful personalities — authors, sportspersons, musicians, filmstars and even politicians — are denizens of SNS these days, enabling the users to get an insight into their views on various issues. This helps me to form and disseminate my own informed judgment on them. And even if you do not have these people on your friends’ list, it is still possible to send messages to them across cyberspace and get a response without having to trouble them in person.

“That said, it is absolutely essential to limit the number of friends so that the SNS are put to good and judicious use without allowing it to become an addiction”.

I am happy to let her have the last word.

Published on January 15, 2013

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