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Friday, March 16, 2007

Net junkies?

‘Get a life’ said a very old friend who was briefly in my orkut community ‘The Good Life!’, and drew everybody’s attention to the recent news item that one of the IITs has imposed a curfew on netsurfing time, the authorities having felt that students are rapidly becoming net-junkies and losing out on their social life – and, I suppose, on study time and health as well – which, if true, would of course be a very serious matter. I should like to examine the issue in detail and in a calm, open-eyed, rational manner: in this country we have a habit of jumping to conclusions and taking hasty action which too often boomerangs on us, or fails us badly.

Firstly – as I have heard from my dad’s generation, seen from my own college days, and my own old boys and girls in college today keep telling me – much of that happy ‘social life’ in college has always been a myth or a chimera for most young people. Most of them find (or keep) very few true friends in college: most of them remain unhappy members of what a wise man has dubbed ‘the lonely crowd’, afraid of peer pressure to conform, desperately trying to be ‘in’, often against their own tastes and wishes, and becoming warped in the process, getting drawn into all kinds of seriously-bad habits which take a very heavy toll a few years down the line, and wasting an enormous amount of time in the process. What is called ‘a life’, or ‘enjoyment’ or ‘fun’ or whatever is just that – waste of many valuable years in bad living. Just as bad as what we elders often do at our parties, gorging and drinking away and leering at one another’s wives and daughters, rarely having five straight minutes of informed and intelligent conversation!

If the above is accepted to be by and large true, I shall proceed to make my second point: consider the typical college-goer who doesn’t play outdoor games much, does not have special circles of friends with common interests (like watching movies, making music, or going trekking) and cannot or won’t socialize at the canteen or nearby pub. For him or her, the Net is a godsend! Now the Net can be abused like anything else – you can waste all your time watching porn or forwarding silly jokes or playing juvenile games or scribbling crap scrap – and those who are by nature inclined to such abuse will always find a way of doing it, whether the college bosses facilitate things or not. I have the more refined and serious-minded youngsters in mind, especially those who, being by nature quiet and shy and finicky about things like bad language and noise and rude jokes, cannot socialize very well face to face. The privacy and relative impersonality of a net chat room (you don’t have to see the person you are chatting with, and he or she cannot directly yell at you, and you can log out or cut out anyone you don’t like without hassles…), especially if one is using a computer in one’s own room, offers lots of nice and clever youngsters to ‘get a life’ the only way they can. It must NOT be assumed that they are losing out on life: indeed, looking at the animated discussion board at my orkut community, it seems to be quite the contrary situation! And I know for a fact that many of these boys and girls are simultaneously pursuing other good hobbies and doing well at their studies too. Nobody needs to become a net-junkie any more than he needs to become a glutton or a drunk or a TV-addict: let’s not blame the net instead of ourselves for our failings!

Think about it, and get back to me. I hope my friend's son reads this too. Meanwhile, happy surfing, everybody – just don’t overdo it. Our religion says sarvam atyantam garhitam: all excess is bad!

5 comments:

mayuri said...

Two years in college and i have learnt that, like you said, the happy social life in colege is myth.
The non-academic side of my colegelife has been a total dissappointment. And this, even though i have a few friends in college with whom i can actually sit down and have a good time.
In such a situation the internet has been a blessing in disguise. Once you can get past the whole horde of frustrated men ( who scrap you messages like "wanna date me?" or "lets make frensheep"), nonsensical forwards that claim that i will die by 12 if i do not send the message to 20 people( i would have died a thousands times by now) and annoying pop-ups, its not such a bad place after all. For one, it gives me a platform to express my self - for example: the comunities on orkut and a few other interactive websites. The debates, the arguments are always thought-provoking; it helps me strengthen my opinions as i try and type them out in a cohesive and orderly manner, it allows me re-consider my opinions when faced with criticism and at times, helps me to evolve my views.
How far it helps with social networking, i am not too sure. Personally, i have met very few people on the net who are like-minded and more often than not, i have found it hard to sustain these new virtual-relationships untill they are backed by some support from the real-world.But then again i also know of people who make new friends on the net by the dozen.
Other than that, the net has also been hugely beneficial in other ways too- for starters,it helped me a lot during college admissions, and then there is my personal blog, and reading through other peoples blogs, and ofcourse helps me with the research that i do before i write my articles. And then there are other little benefits like online flight reservations!
But ofcourse,it goes without saying that it must be balanced and an addiction to the net can be terribly harmful.

Ankan said...

I couldn't agree more with you, but I have a number of reasons of my own. Having seen first hand and been a part of this very conversation a number of times in my IIT itself, I can tell you that this ploy is probably justified from a certain point of view, but it's definitely not the correct step to take.

The Net is currently something pretty much indispensable to a college student.Even if you leave out all the fun and frolic and useless things that people do on the internet, how can we overlook that almost all our work, from assignments to submission of online forms to searching for various kinds of options(job/internship)-all of it happens through the internet. I would have to say that I would find it difficult to actually work without sites like Google that make your life much more convenient- a convenience that I see no reason to avoid or shun. But again, there's the other side of the coin too. Even our erstwhile seniors would use to say that the level of discussion, people sitting around and gossiping- has decreased significantly with the advent of computers. My guess is that the step that has been taken is principally because of multi player computer gaming-a thing to which one gets very easily addicted to- and that definitely disrupts a normal life. Even the professors here have contemplated taking certain steps against it.

Leaving this aside, I don't see why net access should be curbed. People still indulge in intelligent conversation over coffee in the canteen- personally I don't see the lives of most people around me becoming any less social than it used to be at the time without computers. With increasing popularity of sites like orkut,Hi5 and others that are precisely meant for social and business networking, I find it pretty ridiculous when the administration accuse that the students are losing out on social life.

Personally, I have done a lot of useful things over the internet( I am currently commenting over the net too) and I also have done all the silly things that you talked of some time or the other-I think it's much easier to get addicted to the usefulness of the internet than to pornography or nonsensical forwards!

nobody said...

I believe that "You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink."

The best way for IIT to treat this problem would have been to show the guys how it really hurts them, and show them how to reform. Forceful prevention has never been any cure to any problem.

Web 2.0 with all its various interactive features does give us the ability to be make similar minded friends from anywhere and everywhere in this know world, and not be limited to just our friends whom we know in person. As such its a very powerful tool, but again "the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof"

Bigdreams said...

When I hear my mother say "those were the best days of my life" with reference to her college days, I feel a twinge of jealousy. The essence of that feeling is captured in your post. What the previous generations loved about their college life, is sadly missing in ours, and perhaps that's the reason why most of us resort to the cyberspace for entertainment. Perhaps we need to redefine entertainment, and that should fix a whole lot of problems.

Kanishka said...

Net junkies? Yeah, considering how much time I spend on the net, I sure qualify to be one. But I don't see how that has affected my social interaction in any way. I still do attend all my classes (in fact, when I didn't have a computer in my room, I attended fewer classes! Though, that was for another reason), I still go out for the football practice every evening, and I still do participate in a lot of extra-curricular activities. And even then, I am able to spend a lot of time on the net, debating and discussing matters on communities, posting comments on other's blogs, or simply catching up with friends, chatting or doing some academic/non-academic "work". What about it? Like Ankanda said, here, all work is done over the net, be it assignments, communicating with professors, or sending applications for internships. Mailing, blogging, chatting, online forms, Google and Wikipedia: how very convenient our lives have become because of these. Internet sure is indispensible here. The major problem here is with the multiplayer gaming over the LAN, which I have seen affecting the level of interaction in my wing itself. We don't sit and talk as much as we used to in the first year, when most of us did not have computers. But this addiction to gaming is so like all the other addictions: it's a matter of choice, one doesn't get addicted as long as he/she doesn't want to. Moreover, gaming has nothing to do with internet.
The "happy social life of college" Sir is talking about, yes, even I believe that is non-existant. I don't think I have a single friend here close enough for me to share all my thoughts and ideas with. But then that doesn't stop me from going and having a blast with my friends whenever I get a chance to. And that surely doesn't have to translate into "getting drawn into all kinds of seriously-bad habits"! The net sure does come in as a rescue option, and quite a good option at that, as long of course one doesn't misuse it. But doesn't that condition apply to everything we do? It's purely a matter of choice how one wishes to use the resources available to him/her. You can't blame the resources for that!