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Op Eds

The Constant Need to Know

By Shalini Pammal

Shalini Pammal needs to offer a snapshot of her life in 140 characters or less via Twitter. Shalini Pammal can then share what she is thinking in the latest Google Buzz invention, in addition to echoing similar sentiments in a Facebook status update and a Google Chat status. The social media update onslaught has reached such an unnecessary level that we are not only updating the virtual world of the slightest changes (or continuing monotony) in our lives, but now we also have multiple venues to repeatedly express such sentiments.

Most of us have shared some information on one of these social-networking sites that should have been communicated to specific individuals, rather than an entire online population of acquaintances, and people with whom we don’t routinely speak (and who don’t necessarily care about our numerous qualms and pangs of conscience).

Log onto any of these popular social networking websites and you’re bound to be immediately notified of the minute-to-minute happenings in the lives of friends, acquaintances, and the occasional person you are only virtually connected to yet have never spoken with before. You have probably seen the informative “is sleeping” or “is bored” update on Facebook, and the even more exciting tweets that chronicle mundane annoyances or sudden (marginally exciting) revelations on Twitter.

While I am a fan of the occasional clever remark or poignant thought posted via social networks and of creating online communities for people to share new ideas, experiences, and advice, it becomes difficult to keep up with the numerous social-media networks available to the modern Internet user. With more than 400 million active users spending over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook, and with new users signing up on Twitter at a rate of 300,000 per day, is there really a need to “share what you’re thinking” yet again with Google Buzz? The never-ending litany of social updates from multiple sources is simply excessive. Our constant status updating has become a technological diary for sharing the mundane and sometimes personal in our lives even when it need not be shared with virtual communities in numerous different networks.

In addition to the tales of banal routines which garner fleeting publicity via social media status, I have also seen the appearance of the “Like this status and I’ll tell you what I like and dislike about you, my first impression of you, and my confession about you” status. Pervasive across Facebook profiles from time to time, the status seems to solicit numerous “likes” from hopefuls waiting to hear what their virtual friends really think of them. It surprises me that some feel comfortable suddenly sharing what is understood as an initially secret opinion about another, to truth-seeking, online friends, over an outlet so public and accessible to the outsider like Facebook. Perhaps the need-to-know-mentality would be quelled if those status-liking friends heard the unadulterated truth their connections entice them with, through a Facebook status update that can expose “what I really think of you.”

Likewise, as one spills personal feelings, up-to-date actions, and quips about trivial occurrences in day-to-day life, we forget that our close friends are not the only ones who are able to see such status updates. Google Buzz engages the contacts of your entire email base. Facebook friends have become increasingly meaningless. Worst of all, personal tweets can be followed by any of the over 75 million users on Twitter. Your distant online connections don’t need to know that you are “taking a shower” or “going to the gym, tanning, and doing laundry minus the tanning.” The fact that there are so many more social update tools available makes us live our daily lives in an unnecessarily frenzied whirlwind of updates. Why should one need to post thoughts and feelings in so many different media networks in a redundant and needless fashion? It seems as if the simplicity of living in a moment that belongs exclusively to oneself is removed, as the newsfeeds and home pages of numerous online connections are also made aware of minute-to-minute occurrences in others’ lives.

So therefore, Shalini Pammal is not going to tell you what she is doing at this very moment. She’d rather live an experience than post it in a Facebook update, Google Buzz it to everyone she’s ever emailed, or try to squeeze it into a 140 character tweet.

Shalini Pammal ’13, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Leverett House.

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