Since time immemorial man has been finding innovative ways of communication. The Wikipedia definition of communication is “Communication is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior.” As we have evolved so have the methods used in communicating.

Sometimes, when we need to put our point across to a wider audience we need to use propaganda as a means to influence public opinion and sentiment. As time rolls by we have seen how technology has taken up every aspect of our life and now it seems incomprehensible to survive without it. Some of us have used technology as a means of spreading propaganda. Gone are the days when posters were used to promote an idea or an issue. Nowadays, a simple email forward or an SMS is enough to start a rumor which possibly can have catastrophic results. Facebook, probably one of the widest and most used Social networks has evolved from being an application to find about the romantic connections of our ex-crushes to a platform where people share opinions, views and also use it as a marketing tool.

Almost every movie launched today has an emphasis on using social media to advertise and publicise their movies. Examples would be celebrities appearing in chat rooms to talk about their upcoming movie, exclusive content available only online garners interest about the movie. So the internet which was not considered as a major part of an advertising campaign maybe ten years ago has become the most important point of focus for anybody who wants to use it as an advertising media. Comparatively it is cheaper too. Google has a unique way of advertising where you as a client only pay them when a potential customer clicks on your ad rather than view it.

On the other side of the coin, we have customers who see ads based on their internet usage. So if you are a football fan and view websites related to football the next time you are checking your e-mail, chances are that you may see a Nike advertisement promoting their latest range of football shoes.  Some of us may think, “Hang on, this isn’t right. Why should Google have the permission to snoop about and fetch my internet history?”  Well, because they feel that since they provide you free services like Search, Mail, Chrome, and numerous other applications which many of us have the pleasure of using they have a right to collect some information about your preferences which they can use to generate ads and in turn generate revenue. Now that to me is a fair deal.

Twitter is one of the most innovative, simplest and brightest ideas to come up in the last decade. The original blueprint for the website was drawn on a single sheet of paper and as of today twitter has over 200 million users. The USP (Unique Selling Point) of twitter is its simplicity. Say what you feel like in 140 characters or less. The interface may change a bit but this idea of keeping your message short and simple makes it innovative.

Just like Twitter and Facebook there are numerous other social networking sites, each having their own unique ideas like Friendster, LinkedIn and Flickr etc. In addition to this there are social networking sites which have become hits in their own regions or countries. For example, Facebook & Twitter was banned in China in mid-2009 following deadly riots in the western province of Xinjiang that authorities say were abetted by the social networking sites. This led to the popping up of many networking websites like “Renren” & ”Sina Wiebo”, which had many features similar to Facebook but had to comply with strict government supervision.  Likewise many countries which do not have English as their primary language like Spain, Argentina or Brazil will have their own regional networks in Spanish or Portuguese which may not be appealing to people from other countries but are huge hits within their own regions.

Even though these networks are a boon to us all and have made life much more fun and interesting they do have their own share of problems. Addictions to these sites, bullying & abuse are just some of the negatives associated with these websites. The addiction problem is something that we need to control by ourselves. I have seen people set their alarms to 3 am in the morning just to get up and harvest their crops on “Farmville”. Yes, some of you may be laughing at this but we all have done this in some way or the other at some point of time. The easy availability of internet access has led to a lot of teenagers having access to social networking sites resulting in a lot of bullying & abuse amongst these kids over the internet. Some of these websites do not have strong moderation tools which results in people posting hateful comments about each other and eventually somebody gets hurt.

If you take out the negatives from this, there are a whole lot of benefits that can be reaped from these sites if you understand how to make proper use of them. Staying in touch with loved ones, building up social connections, promoting business ideas-the list is endless. Social networks are here to stay whether you like it or not. Those who are onboard love it and those who are not, it’s time to get out of your shell and join the new way of saying hello to the world.

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