Social Networking Sites: Does it Connect or Disconnect People?
The Internet has spawned different types of information sharing systems, including the Web. Recently, online social networks have gained signiﬁcant popularity and are now among the most popular sites on the Web .
Unlike the Web, which is largely organized around content, online social networks are organized around users. Participating users join a network, publish their proﬁle and any content, and create links to any other users with whom they associate. The resulting social network provides a basis for maintaining social relationships, for ﬁnding users with similar interests, and for locating content and knowledge that has been contributed or endorsed by other users.
What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks. This can result in connections between individuals that would not otherwise be made, but that is often not the goal, and these meetings are frequently between “latent ties” who share some offline connection. On many of the large Social networking sites, participants are not necessarily “networking” or looking to meet new people; instead, they are primarily communicating with people who are already a part of their extended social network. To emphasize this articulated social network as a critical organizing feature of these sites, we label them “Social Network Sites.”
Top 10 Online Social Networking Sites
Here is the list of Top 10 Social Networking Sites as of October 2011.
1.Facebook – 700,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
2.Twitter – 200,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
3.LinkedIn – 100,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
4.MySpace – 80,500,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
5.Ning – 60,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
6.Google Plus+ – 32,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
7.Tagged – 25,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
8.Orkut – 15,500,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
9.hi5 – 11,500,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
10.myyearbook – 7,450,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors
How It All Started
Long before the Internet exploded onto the mainstream consciousness, CompuServe, a service that began life in the 1970s as a business-oriented mainframe computer communication solution, but expanded into the public domain in the late 1980s was introduced.
CompuServe allowed members to share files and access news and events. But it also offered something few had ever experienced – true interaction. Not only could you send a message to your friend via a newfangled technology dubbed “e-mail”. You could also join any of CompuServe’s thousands of discussion forums to yap with thousands of other members on virtually any important subject of the day. Those forums proved tremendously popular and paved the way for the modern iterations we know today. It was in 1971 were the first email was sent by two computers sitting right next to each other.
In 1978, BBS Short for Bulletin Board System was launched. These online meeting places were effectively independently-produced hunks of code that allowed users to communicate with a central system where they could download files or games and post messages to other users. It is accessed over telephone lines via a modem.
Yet there was no stopping the real Internet, and by the mid-1990s it was moving full bore. Yahoo had just set up shop, Amazon had just begun selling books, and the race to get a PC in every household was on. And, by 1994, the site that may have been the first to fulfill the modern definition of social networking was born.
Geocities, one of the world’s first social networking site was founded in 1994. It allows users to create their own website. In 1995, the globe.com gave users the freedom to personalize their online experiences by publishing their own content and interacting with other with similar interests.
In 1997, America Online (AOL) was launched popularizing instant messaging, and sixdegrees.com was also launched allowing profile creation and friend listings. And of course who will forget classmates.com which proved almost immediately that the idea of a virtual reunion was a good one. Early users could not create profiles, but they could locate long-lost grade school chums, menacing school bullies and maybe even that prom date they just couldn’t forget. It was a hit almost immediately, and even today the service boasts some 40 million registered accounts.
In 2002, social networking hit really its stride with the launch of Friendster. Friendster used a degree of separation concept similar to that of the now-defunct SixDegrees.com, refined it into a routine dubbed the “Circle of Friends” (wherein the pathways connecting two people are displayed), and promoted the idea that a rich online community can exist only between people who truly have common bonds. And it ensured there were plenty of ways to discover those bonds.
Introduced just a year later in 2003, LinkedIn took a decidedly more serious, sober approach to the social networking phenomenon. Rather than being a mere playground for former classmates, teenagers, LinkedIn was, and still is, a networking resource for businesspeople who want to connect with other professionals. In fact, LinkedIn contacts are referred to as “connections.” Today, LinkedIn boasts more than 30 million members.
More than tripling that number, according to recent estimates, is MySpace, also launched in 2003. MySpace remains the perennial favorite in the USA. It does so by tempting the key young adult demographic with music, music videos, and a funky, feature-filled environment.
It is, however, the ubiquitous Facebook that now leads the global social networking pack. Founded, like many social networking sites, by university students who initially peddled their product to other university students, Facebook launched in 2004 as a Harvard-only exercise and remained a campus-oriented site for two full years before finally opening to the general public in 2006. Facebook has now more than 800 million users.
In 2006, twitter was launched. It is a micro-blogging site where users keep contacts informed of everyday events through bite-size morsels they post from their computer or handheld device.
In 2008, Facebook overtakes MySpace as the leading social networking site with the most monthly unique visitors, demolish Friendster and erase it in the social networking arena. Today, facebook is the most widely preferred social networking site that has 800 million active users and still continue to grow expecting up to 1 billion users.
Social Impact: Pros and Cons
Web based social networking services make it possible to connect people who share interests and activities across political, economic, and geographic borders. Through e-mail and instant messaging, online communities are created where a gift economy and reciprocal altruism are encouraged through cooperation.
Facebook and other social networking tools are increasingly the object of scholarly research. Scholars in many fields have begun to investigate the impact of social networking sites, investigating how such sites may play into issues of family relationship, identity, privacy, social capital, youth culture, and education.
Several websites are beginning to tap into the power of the social networking model for philanthropy. Such models provide a means for connecting otherwise fragmented industries and small organizations without the resources to reach a broader audience with interested users. Social networks are providing a different way for individuals to communicate digitally. These communities of hypertexts allow for the sharing of information and ideas, an old concept placed in a digital environment.
Although exceptions exist, there are available researches that suggests that most social networking sites primarily support pre-existing social relations. Facebook is used to maintain existing offline relationships or solidify offline connections, as opposed to meeting new people. These relationships may be weak ties, but typically there is some common offline element among individuals who friend one another, such as a shared class at school. This is one of the chief dimensions that differentiate social networking sites from earlier forms of newsgroups (Ellison et al., 2007). Research in this vein has investigated how online interactions interface with offline ones.
How has social networking improved people’s relationships with family and friends?
When you live long distances away from your family and friends, social networking sites allow you to keep in closer contact. You can share pictures, videos, chat with each other or simply post updates so family and friends can see what you have been up to. These social networking sites make it much easier for friends and family to stay in touch on a daily basis than ever before, even from around the world. You can find your elementary classmates, keep in touch with distant relatives, parents working abroad can keep in touch with their family, and some used it to find their long lost friends.
Social networking sites allow us to communicate much more with people than ever before. We can talk to friends and family while we work or without leaving our homes. You can use social networking sites to talk to people during the day or in the wee hours of the morning. Social networking sites keeps us from having limits on the amount of time that we spend socializing with our friends and family. Even if that person isn’t online, you can still communicate to them. They will get the message in the morning and respond to you.
Anyone on your friends list can see what you post for public view. That means that you will be able to contact everyone at once without having to repost. Everyone can view your photos that you want to share or your videos on social networking sites. They can comment on them as well. Social networking sites have simply made it much easier to share our information with family and friends and therefore improving those relationships.
Does Social Networking really connect people?
In 1998, Kraut et al. showed a correlation between Internet use and declines in social relationships and isolation. It is stressed in the study that “Greater use of the Internet was also associated with small, but statistically significant declines in social involvement as measured by communication with the family and the size of people’s local social networks, and with increases in loneliness, a psychological state associated with social involvement.”
This paper was titled the “Internet Paradox” because the Internet is heavily used for communication, yet it makes people lonelier. Strong relationships developed online are rare; most people use the internet to keep up with offline relationships.
Powerful new technologies provide great benefits, but they also change the way we live, and not always in ways that everyone likes. But will social networking sites really improve the quality of people’s lives? All of this information sharing can be dangerous, through gossip and potential abuse of the services. Examples include friendship and family relationship destroyed due to malicious gossip circulated on a social network. Some people become addicted to life on the computer screen, and withdraw from personal contact — it’s a long way from people sitting on the porch talking to friends and neighbors. Sitting together with your family over a dinner or spending time watching TV.
And does social networking sites really connect people? Doesn’t it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with our friends and family, we are just merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace?
The Future of Social Networks
But what is the future of social networking? Is it a temporary phenomenon that will crumble under the test of time, or is the concept rife with unlimited potential? The answer likely stands somewhere in-between. The economic downturn certainly won’t help any new sites get off the ground, and eventually some of us may get a bit jaded about the whole thing. Are we really networking in a social sense, or are we just hiding behind our keyboards and building lists of virtual friends rather than getting out there in the real world?
Online social networking sites offers people great convenience for social networking. It allows people to keep in touch with friends, reconnect with old friends or acquaintances, meet new people. You can find people with similar interests as you and get to know them better, you can talk to your relatives even if they are in a different country without having to worry about phone bill or traveling over there.
However, like all things, nothing can be too good to be true. With an increased amount of time spent on the Internet comes with consequences. As studies have shown, the more time spent on the Internet browsing through online communities and chatting through instant messenger means less time spent socializing with real people. People slowly become disembodied with real life and believe they live in a virtual world with virtual friends. As they begin to lose touch with other people, they increasingly isolate themselves.
In my opinion, I feel that socializing and having real friends in the real world is much better than living in a virtual world. Family relationship can be closer in personal dealings than in virtual connections. R.Lumauag
Are social networking sites good for our society? Retrieved October 20, 2011 from http://socialnetworking.procon.org
Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well- Being? American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017-1031.
The History of Social Networking. Retrieved October 22, 2011 from http://www.onlineschools.org/blog/history-of-social-networking/
Barnes, S. (2006). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, 11 (9). Retrieved October 25, 2011 from http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_9/barnes/index.html
Nickson, C. (2009). The History of Social Networking. Retrieved October 25, 2011 from http://www.digitaltrends.com/features/the-history-of-social-networking/
Top 10 Most Popular Social Networking Sites | October 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2011 from http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites