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Monthly Archives: May 2012

How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many people are following you on Twitter? Are you on Google+? Heard of Pinterest? What’s the link to your WordPress blog? Not on WordPress, then what about Blogspot? Or LiveJournal? Tumblr. MySpace. Quora. LinkedIn. Orkut. MeetUp. MyYearBook. Badoo. Not to mention, all these social media platforms have also migrated to the mobile domain. BBM me. Add me on Whatsapp. Want to share your location? How about Foursquare? Or Google Latitude? Or Yahoo Fire Eagle? Or Loopt? The list is endless. Hey, let’s not forget the simple text message either. And all these services are available worldwide at the expense of a simple internet connection or an internet enabled mobile phone.

The wide claim is that social networking and social media is making the world a smaller place. But, in truth, can it be possible that social media may be isolating us from the essential daily human touch.

A few weeks back, a few friends and I had decided to meet up for some coffee and conversation. We had plenty of coffee with each other and a lot of conversation, but not with each other. For the duration of our meeting, we were all busy on various social media networks our application on our Blackberrys, iPhones and Android smartphones. The result: a group of friends all sitting around on the same table buried in everything except the purpose of actually catching up. There was a point where two of us who were there were actually BBMing each other. The irony cannot be underscored any further.

The biggest complaint that parents have is that their child is spending too much time on the internet or his/her smartphone rather than with them or even outside. Recent studies of children between the ages of 10 to 18 have showed the average child would much rather spend time on Facebook than shoot some hoops or play some ball. Majority of the parent’s surveyed complain that their teenage son or daughter uses his phone for social networking purposes during a meal with the family.

A study by Amy Porterfield, a US based social media examiner indicate that as of the year 2011, 24% of the time spent online per day is attributed towards social media. That is 1 in every 5 minutes of the day spent on social media on average per user. About 55% of adults have at least one or more social networking profiles. As of 2010, Facebook had a unique audience of 125.2 million visitors. And as of today, Twitter has a unique audience of 19.1 million visitors.  This was a massive growth of more than 1,520% in the two years prior.

A study in the New York Times claims that – “The social media brand that people spend the most time with, the report finds, is Facebook, by an enormous margin. During May 2011, when the report was compiled, 53.5 billion minutes were spent on facebook.com from computers at home and work (that was up 6 percent from 50.6 billion minutes in May 2010). Behind Facebook during May was Blogger, at 723.8 million minutes, Tumblr, at 623.5 million minutes, Twitter, at 565.2 million minutes, and LinkedIn, at 325.7 million minutes.”

A social networking analysis site socialnetworkingprocon.com claims that even countries like Israel have citizens spending an average of 11 hours per month on social networking sites. Twitter was so important to the Iranian protests after the Iranian presidential election in June 2009 that the US State Department asked Twitter to delay a scheduled network upgrade that would have taken the website offline at a busy time of day in Iran. Twitter complied and rescheduled the downtime to 1:30 am Tehran time.

Each person tends to check his idle phone for BBM/Whatsapp/text messages about every 2 minutes. The transition to mobile technology has no doubt been one of the brilliant innovations of the last century, but human use has taken it a step too far.

Social networking sites entice people to spend more time online and less time interacting face-to-face. The sites offer many time wasting activities that supplant more productive activities. Teens spend an average of nine hours per week on social networking sites. The hours per day of face-to-face socializing have declined as the use of social media has increased. People who use these sites frequently are prone to social isolation. Parents spend less time with their children and couples spend less time together even when they live in the same house, because they are using the Internet instead of interacting with each other.

The purpose of this blog post is not to condemn social media or the innovation that went behind its success. The irony lies in the fact that the blog post also comes under a form of social media and outreach. Social media has made the world a smaller place. It has enabled us to connect with distant friends, family and loved ones. Social media marketing is a great form of business expansion and development. Social media also enables us to know what is happening in the world right now.

However, it is our use of social media which has taken it too far. In this digital age, we tend to forget that human touch and interaction is vital to our development. Failing this, we will definitely isolate ourselves from the rest of the world even though we are in contact with it via social media. The emotional closeness that comes with a personal connection will surely disappear behind the desire to view the latest Instagram photo uploaded by your favorite rapper or the current location of that movie star you find so hot. Real contact is an essential, no matter how much we progress as a civilization. A great fear is that the next generation will fail to understand the importance of this contact and will emotionally shut themselves from the world. Put that cell phone aside during face-to-face interactions. Refrain from touching it during a 15 minute dinner with loved ones. Put your son or daughter to bed instead of spending that time on your star athlete’s blog. Connect with the world in a real way too. Be human.

 

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“My teachers don’t ever bother to examine and accurately assess the output of my work”. “My students don’t ever bother to put in a respectable amount of effort and input for their work”. “My teachers don’t bother to give it their all when teaching a lecture/seminar series”. “My students don’t bother to pay attention during a single lecture/seminar series”. These include few of the several rationales, or should we call them ‘minor’ complaints, held by the students and teachers of Mumbai University. And all this excludes any such ‘minor’ complaints of or against the prestigious (bear in mind with very little real competition except from the IITs)  institution of Mumbai University. Approaching the end of my tenure (I imagine all my friends breathing sighs of relief as I write this) under Mumbai University’s ‘prestigious’ four year undergraduate engineering program has given me some insight to analyze the viewpoint held by many that , in plain and simple words, what we gained in the four years were simply not worth it.

Freshmen year saw most of us enter with desire, determination and a willingness to work and learn (yes, imagining that I had ever felt that way seems absurd now). If I were to be completely honest, I’d say it took all of one year for ‘the system’ (‘prestigious’ system) to sap me of my perseverance. However, I have known many who last two years. No one generally makes it beyond the third year (shocker eh?!). When I entered college, the system was already tainted (in fact, I don think there was ever a time when it wasn’t). However, it would be fatuous on my part to not hold myself at least partially culpable for becoming a part of the system. But, friends, MUites and countrymen, the intent of this post is not to criticize or enumerate a long list of flaws against Mumbai University, it’s colleges or even it’s teachers.The main aim, in fact, is to focus on what Mumbai university has really taught me. I can imagine that many readers(if i did manage to get any) have already shut this post’s browser tab but for those of you who have made it thus far, I hope i can provide a fair perspective to what i think we have gained.

Let’s be honest. Mumbai University hasn’t taught me much academically. After all, how much can mugging a book front cover to back cover teach? Regardless, we have gained much. Much of these are several implicit aspects which many of us tend to ignore.

On the ides of May (gratefully not March, Mumbai University tends to make one superstitious), final year examinations start. and here I am sitting and writing this blog around five days prior to their commencement. I can positively assert that most of my colleagues too are spending their time in ways other than exam preparations (Facebook much?). Mumbai University has truly made us Bachelor’s of Working Under Pressure (Should. Be. A. Degree.). Four days are more than enough to start and complete a syllabus, regardless of the subject (try that commerce students). Without a doubt, those are four days of intense work under pressure and sleepless nights. But it is this very system which has made us pros at handling that sort of pressure and has given us the ability to get an output of Distinction with First Class with minimal effort. Ability achieved : minimum effort and maximum output. The smash and grab efforts we put in for our projects (my apologies to those who put in a year of effort) is an entirely similar example. It is this same street smart way of doing bookish things which is most likely to get us through each day professionally, regardless of whether one has been placed in Amazon or Accenture. After all, Mumbai University has taught me that Efficiency= Work Accomplished/Time Taken. There are an innumerable number of blogs from several Forbes 500 professionals which advocate the minimum effort and maximum output philosophy.

The worst feeling in the world is waking up for the 8 a.m. lecture and not being allowed inside class for being 10 minutes late. I am sure every student of Mumbai University has experienced this kind of torture from at least one professor in their faculty and made sure that in all future weeks they have been on time for the 8 a.m. lecture of that particular professor. After all, what is worse than waking up early for a lecture and not being allowed to sit for it (well, ummm attending the lecture i guess but hey we need the 75% attendance. Beggers cant be chosers). Regardless of whether an 8 am viva is to start at 8 a.m. (yeah right!!) or 3 p.m. we are always there at 8am. It says something about what we have gained. Punctuality is the key to getting into the good books of your boss (or at least avoiding the bad books). Turn up at 9 a.m. sharp to check in (if only the office was a hotel). Stay till 5 p.m. to check out. Turn up at 10 50 a.m. for the project meeting to be held at 11. Studies show that an increasing number of employees are being fired for lack of punctuality (and it’s legal to do that). The same punctuality will go a very long way in preventing your *ss from being fired.

Yes, attending lectures is the biggest pain in the *ss. Alas, the 75% requirement (60 if you are lucky and if you are in Father Agnell College/Jail, well i guess 110%). It takes each and every ounce of perseverance and sustenance to get through the Monday to Friday 8 30 a.m. to 5 30 p.m. week of college. Well, the work scene is no different. And let’s be honest, when you are working, you are going to be working much more than your stipulated 40 hours a week (truly shocking ahem ahem not). Besides, you can bunk a lecture but you CANNOT do the same at work. If one has the perseverance to sit through a professor blabbering on erroneously for an hour or maybe two about how he feels that Fortan and Cobol are the future of programming languages (yes, i know the names of languages other than C++ and Java) or HCl is his preferred acid then you pretty much have the gut to get through even a sh*tty day of work. Gracias (No, Spanish isn’t a programming language professor xyz) Mumbai University.

Our spheres in high school and junior college were one’s of comfort. We knew the peoplethat  we interacted with since most of us were in our mother’s wombs or even before that. However, entering degree colleges introduced us to diverse and fascinating (or weird) groups of people. Certain amount of adapting was required. A similar situation will be present for most of those taking up jobs at the Amazons and Accentures. Sucking up to teachers has been a common trend in each branch of each college. Ironically enough, that is the same environment that we are to face professionally. Quoting a friend currently working for Deloitte who wished to be anonymous – “The professional world is a cruel and bitter place. Just yesterday my colleagues and I received positive news about a deal with one of our clients. My colleague passed on the success of the deal to my boss, taking all the credit for himself even though he was only occasionally involved in the agreement talks and the deal itself”. Its a man eat man world. We all know that. During our submissions or vivas, each person wants to accomplish his tasks and finish his job with as little work as possible but demanding all the credit and the marks. All of us have faced such situations. (FOR THE MOST PART, I personally consider myself blessed to have been around people who have offered me willing and helping hands *taps wood*). However, much of this has given us a foreword, if not completely familiraized us with the “cruel, bitter” and selfish world out there.

Jack of all trades is master of none. There is some truth to the saying. However, in the world that we live in today, living up to this age old saying is not always possible. It does not necessarily mean that we are half-*ssing things that we shouldn’t be. But, how many times has each of us found ourselves writing an assignment while talking on the phone, watching T.V., eating dinner and studying our syllabus at the same time. Multi-taksing is very important in today’s business and professional environment. And my experience has got me to believe that while Mumbai University may not have made us masters (or even jacks) of our trade it has made us Masters of  Multi-tasking (should be a degree too).

Last but not the least, Mumbai University has given us the opportunity to network and interact with people from diverse backgrounds and departments. Along the way, we have gained some true friends and valuable contacts. Networking with so many people is one of the best intellectually stimulating and professional opportunities ever. Such contacts and friends will help us along the way professionally and some of these associates may provide us with helping hands when we need them. But, just remember to help them in return (Good karma will go a long way).

For those of you who feel that your four years under Mumbai University have been a waste, reflect on the above circumstances. For the graduating many : understand the scenarios and implement them in your professional life when the time comes. Albeit academically much of the learning has been done ourselves but our life length under Mumbai University has given as a glimpse (yes a minor glimpse but a small lesson nonetheless) into a world that we are all to be a part of (if not already a part of).

A parting thought which I believe will be essential to our success : we have spent the last four years trying to fit in, trying to be a part of the ‘cool’ group, trying to be accepted by everyone, trying to be a part of something and be among the many. But, for the rest of our professional lives (and maybe beyond) we must learn to stand out and get noticed. As BroTips once said : There’s no point trying to fit in when you are born to stand out. Probably the best advice to #GettingAheadInLife (also refer minimum effort and maximum output philosophy).