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    By THE time you read this, Social Media Day 2015 would be done and dusted (June 30). But the omnipresence of social media is evident. So what’s happening out there in the space of virtual relationships and lightning communication?
    The Pew Research Center’s latest survey threw up varied findings – to begin with, Facebook still dominates social media though its phenomenal growth is slowing down. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn are platforms seeing significant growth since 2014. So no surprises that multi-platform usage is growing: 52 per cent adults are using two or more social media platforms, a jump of 10 per cent from the previous year. And 70 per cent social media users engage daily with their platform of choice (45 per cent do so multiple times). Instagram is the new beloved of young folk who seem to be tiring somewhat of Facebook.
    So what else’s new? We all realise that social media is where it’s at these days, and there’s no getting away from it in any sphere of life. I, however, am finding the joys of being perennially connected losing its shine. Personal space and real people seem so much nicer.
    I am not alone, according to brand consultant and social media pro Harish Bijoor. On Social Media Day he tweeted, ‘In the beginning you are social, then extra social, hyper-social and finally you’ll be anti social.’
    Why so? I asked him. He minced no words. “When physical groups become difficult to handle, it’s easy to make the jump into virtual groups of ‘friends.’ Research reveals the average Bangalorean today has 265 ‘friends’ — a physical impossibility to sustain relationship-wise. Soon, the quality and credibility of this interaction wanes and it becomes a hollow movement which regular people eventually tire of. There comes a moment when people will smirk at those overdoing social media and real interactions will return. It’s a cycle.”
    Bijoor himself disengaged from Facebook when he realised the 6,000 friends he had, meant zilch in terms of real relationships. He’s on Twitter but uses it only as a ‘broadcast site’ for airing views. Social media can have numerous downsides, he agrees: it can make a person cruder, more unreal (without reality to soften his/her persona), leading to narcissism (what Bijoor calls self-gratifying ‘selfie-bation’), posturing, stalking, possibly an excess of neediness or bitchiness. It also allows everyone to voice random, unfiltered thoughts which can lead to trolling and more nastiness than we need. Everyone’s out there — even Barack Obama and the Pope — so it’s simple taking pot shots at anyone directly. It’s also easier to con people about anything. If there are ‘experts’ springing from every crack in the wall… well, it’s the age of Wikipedia, after all.
    But there are plus points. Positive communication is also easier, knowledge is at your fingertips. “Social media helps people network and that leads to monetisation, which can be positive,” says Bijoor. If only we know how to sift through the mountain of information chucked at us daily.
    m firstimpressionbangalore@gmail.com

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