An Emerging Economy Of Peeping Tom’s

January 24th, 2011

The other day, I was at Taj (Bandra) attending a summit and tweeted about the session to my Twitter timeline (in simple words, it went to everyone who reads my updates on the micro-blogging site) and geo-tagged my location (with the in-built GPS function in my iPhone, I can add my location to every tweet/image/Facebook post). By the end of the summit, I got a tweet from 2 followers that they were in the same vicinity (in effect, complete strangers, who subscribed to my Twitter feeds and known to me just digitally). They had seen my location on their handsets! While in theory, I knew this happens but when it actually happened – tracing someone through geo-taging via a tweet — I have to admit it was a bit alarming to introduce myself to two strangers (who by the way turned out to be speakers from the summit I was attending).

And then some more startling conversation followed. One of the strangers, let’s call him Mr A, asked me about MY trip on a yacht that I had tweeted about, asked me questions on my recent experience as a panel moderator that I had shared on Facebook, and also discussed my story that I had shared on LinkedIn. He knew and remembered my digital updates. The second person, Mr B too enquired about a recent trip that I had shared on Twitter and pointed out what I should have included in my itinerary.

If you’ve been spending the past year or longer on the most popular social networking sites – Twitter and Facebook – then probably the above incidents have occurred in your life too. People like me log on every day, obsessively share updates on Facebook profiles and make it a point to check the status updates, tweets and what their online friends have been upto. In many ways, this is like reversing the peepholes on our apartment doors and inviting the world to see us in our natural habitat.

And I am not alone. Facebook is the 3rd most visited website in India, representing 5.26 per cent of all Indian Internet visits (according to Experian metrics). With search engines, social networks and email services clocking top ranks on the internet, it’s safe to conclude that most internet-savvy Indians spend a good amount of time reading up on what their friends are chatting, tweeting, scribbling, uploading, viewing and recommending on the web.Social networks have evolved is a classic example of how voyeuristic we have become (and there’s scope for more with 3G with people expected to start sharing videos etc on handsets).

Our every move, latest connections and most current whereabouts are up for everyone to see. And if you ever convince yourself that people aren’t paying attention to you simply because you don’t see a comment on your updates or photos of that party you attended, then please don’t fool yourself. When you comment on someone else’s photo or update, sites generate an email to let everyone else in your network know what you just scribbled. You “poke” a friend, take a quiz or survey and compare the results with your friends or upload a photo of your new car and wait for your friends to compliment you on your choice. You reach out to the site and it reaches out to you — keeping you glued.

The question I ask myself — can I stop social networking today? The answer stares right back at me.

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