- Internet & the Web
Social Networks In today's Societies
When people hear the term “Social Networks” they naturally think of Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. According to Dictionary.com the term “Social Networks” is defined as “any website designed to allow multiple users to publish content themselves. The information may be on any subject and may be for consumption by (potential) friends, mates, employers, business partners, etc.” (dictionary.com, 2010). With this definition in mind, it is easy to see that there exist thousands of social networking sites on the Internet.
Some social networks are on a small scale with a limited number of members and restricted to specific groups such as a business, sports club or professional body; while, other networks are global with an infinite number of participants around the global communicating in multiple languages and several mediums including text, graphics and videos. Many of these social networks have network specific lingo unique to the specific network – only the members of the network know the meaning.
Today, social networks deliver the entire gamut of content ranging from gossip and entertainment; to e-learning and personal development; to legal and medical advice. Internet users looking to find other people, with similar interests, to network with do not have to look far for a social network that fulfils their needs. If an individual or group is not able to find exactly what they are looking for, in social networking, they can readily develop a networking site at the nominal fee that hosting sites charge. Social networks have advantages that provide great benefit and enjoyment to its members, creating lifelong friendships and knowledge; however, these social networks can also present disadvantages such as cyberbullying that sometimes lead to serious or even fatal consequences.
Employees in brick and mortar businesses, both large and small, use social networks to communicate with each other. Businesses operating in these physical environments are also using social networks to connect with their customers. This business to customer networking is sometimes done via other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. For example, the news magazine Nightline provides online networking in which members of the site can engage in discussions about topics in the news. Nightline, in turn, uses the information the members discuss in these forums to develop news stories for future broadcasts.
The medical show the Doctors have an online network where viewers can go to talk about their personal health experiences. Members of thedoctorstv.com online can join in the “Community/Message Boards” where members can, give and get advice from other members about health related issues, as well as get answers from medical professionals in live chat. These discuss forums also give the doctors information upon which they can explore additional health issues. (theDoctors.com, 2010)
The ability for companies to contact their employees twenty-four hours a day, via the social networks, is considered by some employees to be an invasion of their civil rights. These social networks also give benefits to the employees i.e. the abilities to work from home and to contact co-workers who are out of the office when their assistance is required. Those employees who do not like networks that provide their bosses the ability to spy on them will have to get used to it, since, barring government imposed regulations, it will continue.
Social networks allow members to create personal profiles in which they can display their creativity and become the imaginary people that oftentimes is not permitted the real world. Online profiles provide members opportunities to match-up with other members of similar tastes and styles. Novices, in the network, will use the profiles to elicit mentor relationships with members who have expertise in specific fields. Examples of these mentor relationships can be see in the two websites Helium.com and eHow.com. In the networking section of Helium, members can join the “Online Writers’ Collaborative” group that match novices writers with mentors. The experienced writers coach the amateur writers on how to improve their writing skills for free (helium.com, 2010).
In some of the social networks mentors charge a fee for their services. These fees are often set through a bidding process where the buyers and sellers negotiate a price. There are perhaps even more networking sites where the services/advice is given for free to the members.
websites have moved social networking beyond the typical forums and live chats
and are now offering audio and video conferencing. Participants in the social
networks can communicate with the hosts as well as other members around the
world in real-time. These live-conference networks bring people from around the
globe together to meet one another and to share their ideas and experiences. The websites TradeStation.com
provides brokerage and other financial assistance to its online trading
customers. TradeStation is also a pioneer in e-trade social networking. These
e-trade networks consist of webminars where users of the e-trade network can
log onto TradeStation to observe and participate in real-time in live trade
Computer users are becoming more dependant and comfortable conducting their business affairs over the Internet. With this increased use of the Internet for business transactions so too has come an increased need for social contact. This social contact is sometimes born out of a need for product reviews or business appraisals. Consumers may want to read what other customers have to say about an online business before they make a purchase or investment in the company. This will help online bargain hunters save time surfing the different company websites. Consumers also use social networking to learn about products and services offered by businesses that operate in the physical environments. Through networking, consumers can read about other customers’ experiences before leaving home, saving them time having to shop around.
In some instances, social networks are set-up for the sole purpose of business, service and product reviews. Two websites, ripoffreport.com and compliantsboard.com allow members to network with other members to get advise about consumer goods that are available in virtual environments. These networks give people the advantage of learning how effective a product is saving them money and the hassles associated with bad purchases. Social networks give participants the ability to express their opinions about products and services anonymously without fear of reprisals.
People looking to make money selling their products and services will often use social networking sites to connect with potential customers. There are also revenue-generating opportunities such as Google adsence and YouData.com for participants in social networks. These programs pay members of social networking sites for directing traffic to other sites and advertisements via backlinking or ad clicking. Backlinking is a tool often employed by users of social networks such as Twitter.com and Hubpages.com to earn passive incomes online, with minimal time spend on the part of the members.
Social networks are a convenience way for sellers to increase their customer base; unfortunately, there has been an exponential increase in scrams in recent years. Buyers wanting the convenience of shopping using social networks (or any online application) need to exercise vigilance when looking for produces and services on the Internet.
There are an infinite number of websites that provide Internet users with entertainment and information and there is a growing trend for these sites to contain social networking components. Social networks provide a platform for people of like interest to engage in discussion groups. The threads in the forums can be on current topics with the subject matter changing quite frequently sometimes within hours with the threads becoming oblivion within days. Other threads can have a lifetime spreading over a period of months or even years, depending on the level of interest in the topic.
One disadvantage of the social networking sites is, some people get emotionally attached to personalities in these networks; and these characters may turn out to be fakes. Such was the situation in the high profile case involving MySpace network, where 13-year-old Megan Meier committed suicide because she believed Josh Evans, whom she had fallen in love with no longer loved her. After Megan’s death, it was revealed that Josh was merely a factious character created by Lori Drew, mother of a former friend of Megan. (Cathcart, 2009)
Online gaming is one of the most popular social networking activities. Players on gaming sites can feel guilty for having wasted so much time in unproductive activities. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have become addicted to gaming networks. These addictions can result in permanent psychological scars. Bootcamps are being opened to help people cure their addictions, and in China where there is “the world's largest Internet population…there are over 200 organizations offering treatment for Internet disorders” (Graham-Harrison, 2009). Unfortunately, there have been deaths in America, China and Korean (to name only three countries) at bootcamps that are designed to help young adults overcome their gaming addictions.
Not all social networking is bad, many people derive positive health benefits from the social contact. Having the ability to communicate with others who share your beliefs, passions and goals can put a new perspective on life. Social networks permit entertaining discussions and role playing that can help alleviate some of life’s stresses for certain people; while, others thrive on the adrenalin rush they get from the heated debates. What ever your pleasure, you can find a social network to satisfy it.
People who are adverse to social networks or just think that it is a waste of their time can cancel their accounts, and many are doing exactly that. In fact, the world’s most popular social network, Facebook, experienced its first negative change in members in the second quarter of 2010.
Social networks allow family and friends to keep in touch with one another; and are also used to meet new people for long-term relationships. These information-sharing models allow users to make comments in public forums, via individual emails and live chats. Regrettably, some people believe that what they read on the Internet is truth; however, there exist some misinformation on there. Users of the social networking sites should do thorough research before following the advice they receive, especially when it comes to medical and financial issues. Internet users can learn a lot from social networks - it is no longer merely fun and games.