This year had me receiving some extra birthday wishes. Usually, people who know me personally wish me by mail or by phone. But this time, unusually, I had a shower of good wishes. So, how did people suddenly realize that I had grown a year older? Yes, you got it right – Social networking. All these extra wishes were from people I had traced over the past few months on the internet or, who had traced me and we were connected via some of the innumerable social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, etc. Some were mere acquaintances. We did not interact everyday. All the same, we were connected on the net and said ‘hello’ every now and then. Was this list of net friends greater than the number of friends in the real social world of mine? I am sure that some of us would say ‘yes’ to that. Is this kind of hap hazard social networking deteriorating our real social lives? Is social networking becoming an addiction, something we would rather do than make friends in the real world? Is this technology advancement doing good to our social lives or making it worse? Cyber relationships replacing social interaction? Social networking is a boon to mankind. With the flick of a mouse we can connect with long lost friends and relatives, renew an old relationship or forge a new one! With just a click we can connect with strangers across the globe with similar interests and share thoughts and emotions with like-minded people we never even knew existed. With just a little tip tap on the keyboard, we can conduct official meetings and clinch deals without having to move from our seats. Without straying from our seats, by using the internet we can just chill out with old or new friends, promote our blogs or professional interests and also learn and teach without even having to spend anything except time and surfing cost which is very economical by today’s standards. In one line, social networking has become our social life to be indulged in at our own convenient space and time. If social networking wasn’t there, many of us would be oblivious of each other’s existence and maybe lose out on many a beautiful friendship. But, is social networking without its flaws? Today, many houses boast of being members of a number of social networking sites with friends that would put any VIP to shame in the social market. Today, when families discuss about issues, invariably, someone from the virtual world finds a way into their lives. Some even wonder what this new element is doing in their lives when they did not even exist when the family started out together. While it could be way to relax, for many it becomes an obstacle in real life social interaction. Life becomes filled with smilies that substitute normal conversations. Many people never realize when social networking has slowly made its way into their lives leaving them with little or no time for their real families. They are worried about their network friends while their own family suffers like the case where a couple was so busy networking that their premature baby died due to malnutrition. That could be an extreme case but may of us especially the younger generation comes close to that when they shut off the real world to step into the world of the internet where reality isn’t as threatening as in real life. Without seeing people they make friends, some get into relationships, some even commit fraud just for the heck of it. This, in spite of the fact that the dangers of hacking accounts, misusing photos and personal information, stalking are more dangerous and easy with social networking than in real life. I traced many of my old friends through some of these social networking sites, I am happy to stay connected. I will not deny it. Today, I have made some lovely friendships via social networking but I do wonder sometimes, can social networking ever replace real life interaction? And if it ever does some day, would we have all become internet zombies? What do you say?