Online social networking has undergone many changes and advancements over the existence of the internet. From email, to message boards, to chatrooms and beyond, the internet has eliminated every boundary imaginable to bring people closer together through virtual interaction. The more recent trend of connectivity is social networking sites. Websites such as Twitter, Myspace and Facebook have allowed individuals to connect with their real life friends and family, as well as befriend new individuals and celebrities alike. While each has its own unique features, the basic formula consists of establishing a profile and personalizing it with photos, status updates, user applications, and so on. Similar to the long ago practice of personal websites, profiles allow individuals to express themselves to the outside world and advertise themselves to those with similar interests. In a sense, social networking sites have taken the best of each area in internet communication (instant messaging, email, message boards, etc.) and have utilized them to create a sort of digital swiss army knife. While not quite replacing these individual areas of communication, the concept has definitely become the preferred method.
As mentioned earlier, each of the major social networking sites takes its own unique spin on the formula. Facebook originally started as a college student networking site, allowing individuals to keep in contact with their former high school peers who have gone their separate ways, and to make friends with new individuals in their own university or private/community college. It has since expanded to include other adults and high school students, and in doing so has greatly reduced the differences between itself and rival Myspace, but it still places its focus on college students.
Myspace, on the other hand, has always been open to everyone and holds more interest for teenagers and young adults. Myspace also has many profiles dedicated to or owned by famous musicians and actors, allowing the celebrities to interact with fans on their own level. The ease of creating a Myspace account has its downsides though, as it has led to a sea of trolling and spam. There have been many mock profiles made of individuals, pets, and even buildings. Many individuals also use pseudonymns, making it difficult to search for friends that a person may know in real life. Another unique trait of Myspace is its free music downloads. These downloads are usually listed on band or musician profiles and contain the most recent or most popular songs of that artist. While many musicians request removal of their songs, their is a considerable amount of those that either aren't aware or do not mind the free downloads.
Finally, there is Twitter. Twitter focuses on the more simple aspect of social networking (status updates) and takes it to the next level. By linking it with one's cell phone, one can update their status at any time, allowing others to know exactly what that person is doing at any given time. Some may update their statuses once or twice a day, while others tend to broadcast themselves every few minutes. While it may sound suprisingly tedious and boring, many find to be fun and enjoy the fact that they can find out what their friends and loved ones are doing even when they aren't with them. Like Myspace, there are a suprising amount of celebrities (including the President) who use Twitter, allowing individuals to follow the lives of their stars without having to pick up a gossip magazine.
Finding the right social networking site isn't very difficult, it just requires a little bit of trial and error. Setting up an account and profile takes only minutes, and chances are you'll know at least one person who uses the same site, allowing you to become friends online as well as in real life. There are dozens of well known ones out there (including our very own HubPages), and thousands of lesser known ones being created all the time. You can try one or many, whatever strikes your fancy. I personally use this site as well as Facebook, Myspace, Retroland, 1up, and several more on top of that. Some I use a great deal more than others, but each one allows me to connect to a multitude of friends that I may not have known otherwise, as well as those that I already know. Try a few out, and let the virtual socializing begin.