|A very common scene in many WiFi cafes, where people, sitting alone or in a group, concentrate on their own mobile phones to surf Facebook. They hardly say one word to one another as they lose themselves to their devices. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
by Le Huong
In a dimly lit and heavily decorated room of a cafe in downtown Ha Noi, Tran Manh Tien and his four friends share the same table and are all busy surfing the net on their mobile phones and iPads.
In their regular Saturday night meetings, they hardly say one word to one another as they lose themselves on Facebook pages. Sipping on a coffee or a fruit juice with their eyes transfixed on their phones, the occasional smile will appear on their screen-lit faces as they share views and comments on Facebook.
Meanwhile, a woman sitting at the next table captures a moment with her boyfriend on her camera phone and immediately uploads it to her Facebook profile. Two seconds later and he has already "liked" it – propelling a barrage of activity within his network – and they soon both find themselves devoted to updating and keeping up-to-date with the page.
This is a very common scene in every cafe, bus stop or park corner, where people, sitting alone or in a group, concentrate on their own mobile phones to surf Facebook.
"I go on the site everyday," said Mai Thanh Ngan, a student from the National University. "Apart from playing games, I follow up on comments and status updates made by my friends from all over the world. If I pass one day without Facebook, I feel like I've been exiled from the civilised world."
Facebook has transformed into a website that is everyday overwhelmed by images of parties, shared information from important events like weddings, even giving birth to a baby, to every single ordinary moment like buying a new shirt, making a cake, bathing a pet, and the list goes on.
"Posting photos and checking friends' statuses are now a must-do on my daily routine," said Ngo Thanh Hang, from Ly Thuong Kiet High School. "When people ‘like' and comment on my status, I feel a level of intimate connection to my network."
Nguyen Doan Dung, 36, who now resides in Poland has another reason to stick to Facebook. Through the social network site, he has tracked down classmates from his secondary school, with whom he had lost contact for more than 20 years since he left the country to settle down in Poland with his parents.
"It's like a miracle happened when I first posted a group picture of my class members with the teacher," Dung told Viet Nam News.
"A friend of a friend found himself on the picture and then gradually I rounded up the contacts of more than 30 classmates. We've now formed a secret group and keep in touch everyday."
Dung feels as if he has returned to his childhood again as he chats with his friends to reminisce on old times.
According to Nguyen Tung Lam, chairman of Ha Noi Educational Psychology Association, also headmaster of private Dinh Tien Hoang High School, social networks have their strong points too.
"But anything extreme is not good," he said. "Many people start using social networks just out of curiosity, then it slowly becomes a habit, then maybe a vital need, and by then the users have become addicts. When people spend all their time on Facebook, they cannot concentrate on study, work and family."
|Virtual connection: Facebook and other social networks are indispensable for many young people, so the Youth Union will use the internet to connect with them. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
Lam advises Facebook users to balance their time in using social networks with face-to-face exchanges, so that they do not find themselves trapped in the virtual world.
Nguyen Tien Hai, secretary of the Youth Union of Lung Ha Village in the northern province of Vinh Phuc's Yen Lac District, has taken advantage of the local infatuation with social networking sites to promote local Youth Union activities.
Knowing that messages on the network are transmitted faster than through real-life meetings, the 23-year-old initiated a fresh way to keep in touch with members who work far from home.
Since August last year, instead of gathering at the village's assembly house to listen to news and discuss plans every month, members can just sit at home and visit Facebook. From renovating a new village gate to supporting a local pagoda for an important function, and even organising a village festival and supporting needy children, members still can take part in town activities effectively without having to attend time-consuming meetings as before.
Presently, as many as 250 members aged 15-25 have joined the group, many of whom had intended to quit studying but had their minds changed after receiving encouragement from other members.
"We need two factors in running an effective model of Youth Union activities: the leader should hold prestige amongst the community; and the involvement of key members who can create influential Facebook topics," Hai said.
Tran Viet Cuong, secretary of Vinh Phuc Provincial Youth Union, noted that the Youth Union in Lung Ha Village was one of the most effective youth collectives in the province in their use of Facebook.
He said the Youth Union was planning to further promote the model throughout the province.
Singer Thai Thuy Linh, one of the Ten Most Prominent Youths of Viet Nam in 2012, suggested establishing many fanpages on Facebook for each ward, village and state agency in the country to share information and connect with each other.
Ngo Anh Tuan, head of the jury board of the Chim En (Swallow) Prize, which praises young volunteers, said Youth Unions leaders should pay attention to hobbies, demands and passions of every group to approach them more effectively.
"Especially when drawing young people from virtual to real life, we need great community links," he said.
The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Nguyen Dac Vinh, recently confirmed: "Facebook and other social networks are an indispensable tool for young people and the Youth Union will use the internet to connect to them."
Supported by the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the Central Committee of the Youth Union's secretariat has taken initial steps of setting up a separate social network for Vietnamese young people. The union have so far conducted research, considered content and page layout, incorporated the use of technology, set up a website management board, and finalised financial matters in a bid to making a new tailor-made social network site a reality.
The next steps will be a co-operation between the Youth Union and the Ministry of Information and Communications to implement the project. — VNS