Teenage siblings Passanna, Mandara and Malveena head straight to the computer room soon after coming home from school everyday for one thing: to go online and see how many people have seen their profile. While one of them is busy using the only computer they have, the other two wait impatiently for their turn to update their profiles, upload new pictures and write nice (and sometimes not so nice) comments about their friends.
Yasas, who does not have an internet connection at home, goes to internet cafes to do the same. A huge fan of heavy metal, he has added a personal touch to his profile with pictures of people with beards that resemble a five-year-old’s pig tails.
These people, like millions all over the world, are members of Hi5 (www.hi5.com), the popular social networking website.
A social networking website is, basically, a place on the Internet where users can create an online profile by answering a simple questionnaire. Users can write about themselves, what their interests are, and upload their pictures. It’s similar to a bio data, but a lot more interesting, judging by the enormous amounts of time some people are willing to spend in front of a computer going through the profiles of complete strangers and sometimes even those of their friends.
Kusal Bandaranayaka (20) sums up the phenomenon that is Hi5, “It’s an obsession for some (Yasas and Passanna definitely come to mind), a stalker’s paradise for some, a means of communication, and a time waster for others.”
According to Kusal Hi5 can be a pretty good ego booster. “Imagine this,” he says, “what if you had a few exceptionally beautiful women writing about you for the whole world to see? Like “this guy is one hell of an awesome guy.” How would you feel? Get my point?”
That seems to be the reason why most people are on Hi5. Yours truly knows one guy who actually signs in from other people’s accounts and writes comments for himself, unbelievable though it may seem. But of course, he always does it with the consent of the other person.
There are some who use it to show off their looks and various skills, among other things. Anudi Nanayakkara (21), an online socialite, if you will, constantly updates her profile with pictures and photo albums; not that she is a show off or anything. “I, personally, like its photograph, fives and profile comment features,” she says. She occasionally adds a journal entry which is, at best, indecipherable to the average person.
Then you get those who are not that obsessed with the whole thing; like Lohitha who does not want anyone to know what his favourite band is or what he likes to do during his free time.
Obsessed or not, there is a certain degree of danger in displaying your picture and private information on your profile, or anywhere on the Internet for that matter. It is up to the user to decide what information goes into the profile and what stays out. For instance, there is no problem in telling the entire world that you have a collection of Barbie dolls hidden under your bed, but it’s very important that you do not give out your e-mail address, your phone number and address or any piece of information that would enable anyone to easily locate you.
“I hardly use my Hi5 account as it’s kind of childish. And there’s also the fact that anyone, any weirdo, creep, psychopath, etc can access my profile, check it out and find out everything about me on Hi5,” says Kshanika (23).
A lot of people seem to be getting hooked on to Hi5 because of its “cool” features and the prospect of meeting new people and going gaga over how pretty everyone looks.
Not everyone is that enthusiastic about it, though. Lonali Rodrigo (19) had this to say: “For one thing it’s very superficial. It’s just another popularity contest based on what our twisted generation thinks is cool/hip/in. You judge people on what they look like. It shouldn’t happen.”
If you’re a girl another problem with having your picture on Hi5 is your inbox gets flooded with friend requests. At the risk of seeming snobbish, or rude, you have to decide whether to accept their requests or block them all together. Shanya Fernando (20), who is a self-proclaimed nice-gal, will add anyone who sends her a friend request only because she doesn’t want be seen as rejecting them as friends. However, she insists that she never keeps in touch with people who seem to be getting too friendly.
A lot of users agree that Hi5 is a very good way to keep in touch with your friends. Kusal, who claims to use it for that purpose alone, says, “I use it as a means of keeping in touch with all my old friends who I don’t have the pleasure of meeting up in person, the ones no longer in the country.”
“It’s a great way to keep in touch with your friends. I use it mainly to keep in touch,” says Lonali.