You would have to live under a rock to not know about online social networking, let alone be involved in it in some way. With its positives and negatives, we are still continuing to push our lives online and take use of the world that is online social networking.
On October 4 2012, Facebook announced that it had 1 billion active users each month. This is around a sixth of the entire world’s population that includes babies, the elderly and people without access to technology. Another way to see its size is by thinking if Facebook was a country it would be the third largest only behind China and India.
On announcement of this feat, Facebook released this video demonstrating the power and vast connectivity of the global social networking phenomenon.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7SjvLceXg U
And this is just Facebook! Facebook is the most used online social networking website, but others are not far behind and continue to grow! The next most popular include Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, Google+, DeviantArt, LiveJournal, Tagged, Orkut and Pinterest rounding out the top ten.
So who makes up these 1 billion people?According to the 2012 Social Network Analysis Report by Ignite Social Media, more women use Facebook, Twitter and Myspace than men, with LinkedIn being fairly even.And to the surprise of many, the younger audience is always not the largest one! The 45-54 year old age group was the most popular on Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace, and was not far behind the 25-34 year olds on Twitter.In terms of geography, Turkey is the country with the highest use of Facebook, Venezuela dominates Twitter, The Netherlands is the highest user of LinkedIn, the highest use of Google+ is in Nepal, and Puerto Rico is the most popular country for Myspace.
So these statistics are a bit all over the place! We as a human beings love social networking, and with increased accessibility and features, online social networking is loved by all shapes and kinds all over the world.
As the use of online social networking is on the rise, the younger generation of people have barely lived their lives without it, and in terms of social standing, you don’t have a life unless you engage in an online social network!“When I ask teenagers why they joined MySpace, the answer is simple: “Cuz that’s where my friends are.” – Danah Boyd.
“Im in the 7th grade. Im 13. Im not a cheerleader. Im not the president of the student body. Or captain of the debate team. Im not the prettiest girl in my class. Im not the most popular girl in my class. Im just a kid. Im a little shy. And its really hard in this school to impress people enough to be your friend if youre not any of those things. But I go on these really great vacations with my parents between Christmas and New Years every year. And I take pictures of places we go. And I write about those places. And I post this on my Xanga. Because I think if kids in school read what I have to say and how I say it, theyll want to be my friend.” – Vivien, 13, to Parry Aftab during a “Teen Angels” meeting.
This goes to show, that online social networks create a haven for young people, almost a second home. They can be whoever they want to be online. If they post a comment or a status they realise they should have posted, they can delete it. They have the choice of who sees their profiles, and what pictures of theirs are accessible and who they choose to be friends with. Their online profiles create almost another separate identity for them from the one they live in the real world.
As these identities are created online, there can be added pressure for youth to hold a certain reputation on these websites. In a dog eat dog world, popularity is a highly sought after accomplishment. For young people, being well- liked is often vital for surviving through school. As our lives are now online, users thrive on likes, positive comments, pokes and their quantity of friends in order to boost their social standing.“This increased awareness of others minute actions may have interesting implications for the way we relate to others and understand ourselves.” – Vladimir Barash.
“The breadth and importance of the peer group during early adulthood is magniﬁed by the number of Facebook friends that students, particularly young women, reported”- Tiffany A. Pempek, Yevdokiya A. Yermolayeva, Sandra L. Calvert.
Life is different online than it is in real life. Hiding behind a computer screen can often enable confidence in the user, and make them engage with people they ordinarily wouldn’t. Social networks are even a common place for shy singles to meet each other!“Even when using a very weak definition of “friend” (i.e., anyone who a user has directed a post to at least twice) we find that Twitter users have a very small number of friends compared to the number of followers and followees they declare. This implies the existence of two different networks: a very dense one made up of followers and followees, and a sparser and simpler network of actual friends.”
However, this can lead to negative implications. As discussed, people can be who they want to be online and project a particular image to their peers. So this can often lead to people saying certain things and behaving in certain ways that they wouldn’t ordinarily in real life.Words can be a lot easier to say on a keyboard rather than out loud, and with the opportunity to post under a fake alias, it is a lot easier to be crude without facing any implications.
“Think of the ways weve used technology to make our lives portable. Pervasive. With us all the time. Now throw someone who doesnt like you into that mix. The reason is unimportant. What matters is they have a presence in this portable world, as do you. And with that point of connection the taunting, the insults and the negativity are now portable.” – William Cohen, ABC Technology and Games.
The issue of privacy is also a downside of living our lives on a publicly accessible sphere. There are only 3.74 degrees of separation between every single user of Facebook worldwide. Despite our vast differences, we are all linked by this growing phenomenon. This increases the accessibility of our profiles, even with privacy settings.“Even social networking websites that do not openly expose their users’ identities may provide enough information to identify the profile’s owner” – Ralph Gross and Alessandro Acquisti.
When we upload content up on to a website that website gains all ownership of that information, and we leave ourselves susceptible to having this information used against us.Every profile has certain information that is accessible to anyone.“By default, everyone on the Facebook appears in searches of everyone else, independent of the searchers institutional affiliation. In search results the users’ full names (partial searches for e.g. first names are possible) appear along with the profile image, the academic institution that the user is attending, and the users’ status there.” - Ralph Gross and Alessandro Acquisti.
As so much information is available on social networking websites, this lack of privacy can also be used as a tool by some to gain certain information.Employers have been known to look on potential employees pages to find out their professionalism, past employment, relationships and even what sort of personality they have.As we are so willing to share details about ourselves so publically, social networking also opens up the likelihood of stalking, where the stalker doesn’t even have to be seen by anyone else to gain this information.
“Using the information available on profiles on the Facebook a potential adversary (with an account at the same academic institution) can determine the likely physical location of the user for large portions of the day.” - Ralph Gross and Alessandro Acquisti.
Despite the negatives of social networking, it is gradually becoming the go to place, not only for our identities as people, but also for everything else surrounding us.It is becoming a must-have of a Business to operate a professional Facebook page. Due to its vast pulling power, Facebook is the ultimate tool for businesses; an easy, cheap outlet to advertise, place promotions, gain attention and most importantly reach a wide audience.“Facebook offers so many opportunities to reach customers with specialized advertising that almost every business can benefit from some sort of paid advertising on Facebook, even if it spends only a few dollars a week” – Perry Marshall, Thomas Meloche.
Along with being a connection, online social networking has also become a re-connection for many. Allowing old schoolmates, work colleagues, distant family relatives and alike to reach each other through a simple, instant resource.Gone are the days of emails and letters. We can now easily contact each other by a simple tweet, wall post or comment for free and without having to wait to receive these messages.
So whether you see the increasing trend of online social networking as a negative or a positive thing, there is no denying or stopping its might as a global entity. With its increased accessibility, ease of use, and abilities, our lives are shifting from real to virtual and only time will tell how powerful this amazing phenomenon will be.
ResourcesBoyd, D 2007, ‘Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked PublicsTeenage Social Life’ , MacArthur in Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham), MIT Press, Cambridge.Gross, R 2005, ‘Information Revelation and Privacy in Online Social Networks (The Facebook case) Pre- Proceedings Version’, ACM Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society (WPES), 2005.Barash, V., Ducheneaut, N., Isaacs, E., & Bellotti V 2010, Faceplant: Impression (Mis)management in Facebook status ppdates. Proceedings of the Fourth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media. Washington, DC.Huberman, B. A., Romero, D. M., & Fang, W 2009, Social networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope. First Monday, 14(1), 1.Tiffany A. Pempek, Yevdokiya A. Yermolayeva, Sandra L. Calvert College students social networking experiences on Facebook• Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 30 (2009) 227–238.eBizMBA 2012, Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites | October 2012, http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites.Cohen, William 2012, Cyberbullying, Facebook and social media, ABC Technology and GamesMarshall, Perry, Meloche, Thomas 2011, Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising: How to Access 600 Million Customers in 10 Minutes, Ultimate Series, Entrepreneur Press.Parker, Matt 2011, Facebooks 3.74 degrees of separation is a world away from being significant, The Guardian UK