Reality check on social media

Peccadilloes on social media can smack you in the face when the online persona spirals out of control and personal details leak into the public domain.

by

Allan Jacob

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Published: Tue 21 Jun 2011, 9:45 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:50 AM

Ask US Democrat Anthony Weiner, who was recently caught with his pants down, thanks to his exploits on Twitter.

Whining aside, you can’t help reflecting on the Dotcom doom a decade ago when the Internet as a medium was ripe for exploration. The ‘E’ word was bandied about, and E-commerce and E-content were on every geek’s lips post an imaginary Millennium bug of 2000, which failed to appear after billions were spent to shore up systems and software globally.

Netpreneurs rushed in for a slice of prime unseen property way up yonder only to fall flat here on earth. First mover becoming huge was a fallacy exposed.

Page views, IPOs and angel investors sounded impressive but did not make long-term business sense, which led to online slaughter of one in five start-ups.

Karl Marx once said “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

What happened then may be happening now at the height of the social media revolution where balancing the dual life — online and offline —is titillating, but comes with lurking dangers.

Social networking has eased out online chatting and messaging and changed the way we stay in touch. Information has gone viral with companies, governments and individuals making their presence felt on social media for free. It is swift and simple and there are walls to post what you like, what you don’t and what others like about you. Posts range from the trivial to the transcendental. A line about going to the loo is perfectly legal and could be lapped up by a host of admirers who love the call of nature.

There are others who tweet, get noticed and are quoted by mainstream media. It’s virtual narcissism with a lingo of its own and accompanied by the usual missteps in communication.

If you don’t social network, you don’t belong. Even my grand-dad networks, quipped a friend when told by this writer it was an intrusive practice which gnawed into time better spent on worldly pursuits. On social media, you reach an aspirational high.

Take Facebook. Only seven years old and 700 million strong; it is the undisputed leader of the social media revolution, with the savvier, celebrity-prone Twitter also making its presence felt among the class conscious. Professionally trendy sites like Linkedin have their own brand of followers.

It’s hep to be part of the revolution. Why not sign up? But wait.

A report published last week called Inside Facebook shows many users have had enough of the Mark Zuckerberg-inspired creation.

There were 698 million users in April, up by 5 million from the previous month.

Last year, 20 million new users were creating Facebook accounts on an average, but in April this year only 13.9 million joined, which fell to 11.8 million in May.

According to the report, many users are deleting their profile citing privacy concerns. More than 100,000 have quit in the UK, while six million have given up on the site in the US, claims the survey. Sounds like kicking a habit.

Facebook’s closest competitor Twitter has grown by more than 1,000 per cent since 2008. However, ComScore figures show users on the site dipped to 123 million this April, from 129 million the previous month.

As for Linkedin, its stock has slumped in excess of 30 per cent since its initial public offering.

Which brings us to the early movers in this space like Friends Reunited, Bebo and MySpace, which face hard times. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is now considering exiting MySpace after failing to hoist it atop the social media sweepstakes.

The site, which was on a roll in 2008 with $900 million in revenue, has slipped to an estimated revenue of just $109 million. With expenses for this year projected at $274 million, News Corp is set to bleed a humongous $165 million.

Facebook, on the other hand, is sitting pretty with a projected $4billion in revenue this year, while Twitter is expected to rake in $150 million. But can they make the party last?

Mammoth America Online (AOL) failed to get it right during the Dotcom years despite big-ticket acquisitions, while the once-mighty MySpace is waiting to be swallowed up in the social media age. Who remembers search engines like Netscape and Alta Vista, or even Hotmail, the e-mail pioneer pocketed by Microsoft for a bomb.

If that doesn’t leave you shell-shocked, take a look at valuations. Facebook is estimated to be worth over $50 billion, while Twitter may be $10 billion.

Is the virtual money and online sex worth it? It wasn’t for Tony Weiner; it need not be for you.

But, before we go, here’s a piece of advice: get a life, people.

Allan Jacob is Chief Reporter of Khaleej Times. He can be reached at allan@khaleejtimes.com


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