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Making sense of Social Media

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While planning for life after retirement, great boxer Muhammad Ali Clay decided to write his reminiscences and announced well thought out plan to pen down his memoirs. "Will you write yourself," after verification of the celebrity's plans a keen journalist asked Clay. "It is very difficult to write about self," he added. "Yes. That is why I will write about myself because who else knows me better," spontaneously responded Clay.

Things have changed far too much too fast. Writing about self no more seems difficult in this digital age. Exploring unlimited cyber expanses these days one cannot move much without reading variety of profiles, personal ads and statements. Readers soon are lured (or need) to upload their own, exceptions apart. Glut of matching and dating Websites (it seems as if every one in the world is 'single' and 'looking' out there) encourage and offer guidelines to write and some social networking sites also provide descriptive questionnaires or fill in the blank forms asking users to select what is most appropriate options about their appearance, interests, age, activities, likes and dislikes and some time more intimate things. This is one of the biggest trends not only in youth trying to extend their social circles and grab some attention but also for many others. Sophists article reads, "Almost 150 million people visited online dating sites in the month of January alone."

Besides relationship websites, plethora of social media sites also need profiles, blurbs or some time one liners. Facebook "About" page (that mostly remains empty) and briefs at Twitter, WhatsApp and many other websites also make an interesting reads about the personalities of the users. 

Profiles enlighten the readers about who are the personalities hidden behind them. There are many types of personal or professional profiles: Informative, well written, clear, accurate and entertaining, funny or ambiguous. One finds short and witty as well as long profiles. Some are purposeful and some others are fastidious, down to the last detail and just self-indulgent turnoffs. And of course those drop-dead gorgeous type; dudesh.

"Perhaps the only rule that people follow is 'it should feel right.' Hence profile styles range from detail and formal to cryptic where only one's friend can understand it. This is also reflected in the profiles of tech-oriented people who like to use geek speak," says an avoid blogger but bit frugal when it comes to writing his own profile, Zoni.

There is more to it, motives of writing profiles and changing them often vary. Internet users may do it for openings to get connected to the right kind of a person(s) {not only in reachable geographical locations but far and beyond} or a right activity groups, some do it to promote themselves professionally and some more do it for fun whereas a lot of users need an online profile simply as an ego boaster - How many have viewed my profile? How many have replied to it? How many more hits I have had since I lost checked my profile site, some hours ago? Profiles range from single and looking to silver surfers who want to play the second innings in life to those who are just window shoppers.

There are many online places to showcase what any one wants to. Users have their own sites for the purpose; a few sites I have seen does not have any thing else save profile of the owner. Plethora of Websites, blogs and even good old hotmail accounts (though any time I clicked on the View Profile link on whichever ID in my own MSN Messenger, I came across this: "Unknown Member, Sorry, we cannot find the person you are looking for. This person might not have a Public Profile or a Passport" and then am lead to MSN Personals. Or this: "Name Undisclosed, Age Undisclosed, Gender Undisclosed, Marital Status Undisclosed, Location Pakistan and There is more about me below..." but there was nothing below.) Beware; hotmail (followed by Yahoo!) is still the biggest cruising ground for interneters in Pakistan so this is an opportunity not to be missed for profile writers as well as inquisitives!

Those who have been online a lot my have seen some perfectly great profiles, as well as a lot of dreadful ones. What online cruising profiles have in common is this: Majority lacks focus, direction and originality. Most writers cannot highlight what they are aiming at. Common users simply try to tell instead of showing through their essays, particularly when photographs (that are worth thousand words as they say) do not accompany the profiles. I have seen photographs of little known Internet princes and queens pasted on profiles of people I happened to know! Similar superlatives and set of adjectives is circulating all over the Internet. And worst of all those typos. A recent survey solicited users response on this question, "What mistakes do online singles make most?" Answer: "50 percent of respondents reported problems with people not checking their spelling and grammar."

While reading online autobiographies, I have learnt to read on two levels. I enjoy what people write about themselves and in the process know them a little better. Many users write those things, which they would otherwise not disclose in face-to-face meetings. But on another level, a more stepped back place, I read about what complete strangers have written about themselves with a conscious hunch that they may not be as described. Not that I doubt strangers, it is only a point where I stand and let personality of the writer come out clearly. Some time it does and some time it does not.

My recommendation: While putting yourself in the display case, make it look worthwhile for the readers.

Where is your online profile [About]?


posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, October 08, 2020,


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