A social networking site is described as ³a website where individuals can set up an online profile, describing his/her interests

however, as boyd and Ellison (2007) reveal, ³while their key technological features are fairly consistent, the cultures that emerge around social networking sites are varied. Most sites support the maintenance of pre-existing social networks, but others help strangers connect based on shared interests, political views, or activities.´ From this, it is evident that the main use of social networking sites is interaction and communicating with others. We use them to keep up to date and in touch with existing friends and relations, or to create new relationships. The amount (and type) of additional features and services offered by different social networking sites often relates to their popularity. For instance, in a study which ranks the amount of traffic (people who use the website) of social networking sites, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are the top three most popular sites as of April, 2010 (³Top 20,´ 2010). These sites offer a diverse range of aids and methods in which to communicate online. Globalisation, interaction, participation and usability are encouraged through these sites; therefore they relate to the (growing) fundamental concepts of modern, µdigital¶ society. The significance placed on interaction and participation within these social networking sites is evident in the numerous ways in which communication is encouraged. For example, some social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook offer users the ability to create sub-groups (or message boards) of people based on similar interests. Unlike µfan pages¶ or µfollowers,¶ which are largely one-dimensional, these groups are ³analogous to clubs in the offline world´ (Greenstein, 2009). These can vary from support groups, to fan groups, to community organisations or school groups. The basis behind them is to share information and communicate with others. Apart from using these groups to interact, people have the ability (depending on privacy settings) to comment and respond to µstatus updates¶ and statements or comments that others have posted, thereby initiating communication. On sites such as YouTube, people may even give a video response. By allowing such feedback, there is the prospect of conversation, of debate, of sharing information or perceiving new ideas. It is this capability of interaction that makes social networking sites multi-dimensional in communicating, unlike the onedimensionality of earlier websites and blogs. As such, it also points to the fact that social networking sites, as Siegler (2009) suggests, are often an extension of µreal life.¶ By coexisting with life offline, communicating in the digital world is therefore no more of a threat than if a person were to join communities and interact with others in the offline world.

Other activities offered by social networking sites include such services as multiplayer online games, polls, chat rooms and messaging services, all of which endorse the idea of communicating and interacting with others. Customisation of user profiles, such as background images and page layouts also provides a way of interaction through expression (and sharing) of interests or the sharing of these graphics. Many social networking sites market on the increase in

convergence technology and portability of today¶s technology. As Chris Bronk (2008) of the Baker Institute clarifies, ³convergence is a term tied up with digital technology.´ As so much of the way we communicate has become digitised ³we see more and more that your telephone is your music player and it¶s also your email client or it¶s your Internet browser´ (Bronk, 2008). The companies that are providing us with communication services are, as Bronk (2008) further states ³selling us not one service anymore [but] they¶d like to [provide] a whole bunch of different [services and] so they have a converging business model,´ which very often incorporates connection to some sort of social networking site. Therefore, social networking sites offer an array of µwidgets¶ and applications which allow users to easily connect to the site and to share their information on these sites with others. The website Widgetbox shows some examples of applications for social networking sites and has a wide range of µwidgets¶ to choose from. These applications are also used to connect with other websites (generally blogs), usually through ³Really Simple Syndication´ (RSS) feeds, which provide links and updates of information to other sites. As Jansson (n.d.) shows us, social networking sites can combat loneliness; that by overcoming µreal life¶ boundaries, such as time or distance, and establishing a continuous link to communicating with others, a feeling of participation and belonging is created.

Convergence technology, social networking sites and the applications which link the two together can also enhance freedom and mobility. They offer the ability to access information and communicate with others at any time and in any place and regardless of the physical location of other people. People can maintain a constant connection with existing friends and family who might live in different countries, or they can form new relationships with other nationalities, regardless of µreal time¶ or separate locations. As Lecky-Thompson (2009) informs, ³This has recently come to light in the number of people in the armed forces using YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter to stay in touch. [Also], social networking sites can bring people together with varying backgrounds who might otherwise never have met, and then encourage them to extend that experience into real world social functions.´ This is especially the case for minority groups, who might ordinarily be ostracised or overlooked in offline communities or social situations. As Bekhuis (n.d.) explains, ³The virtual anonymity of online experience helps to reduce social discomfort and discrimination, or stereotyping otherwise associated with real-life perceptions of age, disabilities, race, gender, or culture.´ By communicating online, it allows people to see past physical differences and focus on a deeper connection, discovering similarities that may have been previously disregarded.

By forming groups of people with similar interests (particularly if the interest or hobby is not mainstream), social networking sites can create a sense of unity and belonging in people who might have previously felt alienated in society because of an inability to relate to local people.

Particularly in areas with smaller populations, the chance of discovering others with similar interests is infrequent but by removing these location barriers through online communication, the chance of meeting people with the same interests is greatly increased. Social networking sites give the impression that it is a much smaller world. Some social networking sites, such as Neighbo even encourage social interaction on a local level, for, as Fox (2009) suggests, ³with levels of social trust reported to be in decline people respond by retreating indoors´ and social networking online allows an easier way to form relationships with local community members. Furthermore, existing relationships on a larger (community) level may also be aided through the use of online social networking. A trustee of a Unitarian Universalist meetinghouse presents the view that ³the advantage [to local communities] of [communicating online ...] is that you can be made aware of more things« you can get involved and you can be kept up to date« you can link to a [Web] page and that [page] with its links can lead you to a lot more information on the issue. So you can become more involved [in the community]´ (Kavanaugh, 2009). By encouraging online communication between local people, these relationships are therefore likely to be stronger offline, as people become more informed and involved in local events.

Social networking sites also offer the chance of communication in cases where mobility is often a hindrance to social interaction. Elderly people and those with physical disabilities who have an inability to leave their house are able to stay in touch with existing relations and friends, as well as get in touch with people who have similar issues (Lecky-Thompson, 2009). The use of social networking sites amongst deaf teens is an example of the benefits of online communication in relationship to physical disabilities. Chen-See (2009) tells us that online communication ³provides a unique, convenient communication tool that does not require speaking verbally´ and as such ³may empower some teens with hearing loss [as it] helps to level the playing field.´ This is also the case with people who have psychological disorders who may also have limited mobility. According to Lecky-Thompson (2009), ³Online communication can help those with dysfunctional syndromes achieve a level of social interaction previously difficult or impossible. For some people, interaction with crowds is made easier if they do not actually feel the physical immersion. Such sites also provide those isolated by disability or environment with a rich and fulfilling social life.´ Moreover, connecting with others online ³can be a good addition to therapy and for many, even encourage they seek professional help´ (Market Wire, 2008). The ability to incorporate blogging in social networking can also be therapeutic. ³Blogging is a form of journal therapy and according to renowned therapist Kathleen Adams, ³studies indicate that the release offered by writing has a direct impact on the body¶s capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease´ (Market Wire, 2008). Many people form support groups through social networking sites to discover and communicate with others who have similar problems or health issues. People find it easier to reach out online because it can be anonymous and it allows people more control over what information they disclose. An example of the benefits of this form of online support, dubbed ³Health 2.0´ (McGilvray, 2009), can be seen in teenager, Tamaryn

Stevens, who was diagnosed with kidney disease when she was 10. She uses a networking site called Livewire, which was set up by the Starlight Children¶s Foundation and is aimed at 10-21 year olds with serious illnesses and disabilities. ³It¶s hugely beneficial,´ [she says,] ³Especially the days that you feel [down] in real social situations like school and things like that. You go home and you go into Livewire and there¶s people to talk to and it makes your day that much better´ (McGilvray, 2009). With online social networking reducing difficulties with limited mobility, time and distance barriers and unacceptance due to stereotyping, people like Tamaryn therefore have more access to support and the ability to improve communication with others despite illness or disability.

Another benefit to communicating through social networking sites is the promotion of education and news. People can share information via links, reviews and applications. They may source this information from other places and share them with others or provide their own information for education, updates of news or support. Many educational institutions encourage learning via the Internet and social networking sites because it allows an easy communication channel for students to learn and share skills. As Jansson (n.d.) shows, ³Students enjoy educational opportunities where lesson topics, research, creative ideas, and interactive discussions are at their fingertips.´ A study at the University of Minnesota also found ³that, of the students observed, [...] 77 percent had a profile on a social networking site. When asked what they learn from using social networking sites, the students listed technology skills as the top lesson, followed by creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills´ (Educational Benefits of Social Networking Sites Uncovered, 2008). From this it is clear to see that communicating online is, in numerous ways, beneficial to educating and learning. News information may also be observed online, as many news channels also provide their information on the Internet, which users of social networking sites may peruse via µwidget¶ links and applications. These applications generally provide live feeds of current, updated news to a user¶s profile page (on a social networking site), which is further evidence of the constant connection and communication provided by social networking sites and another way in which they are beneficial in society.

Businesses are also honing in on the ability to market and advertise through social networking sites. ³New media shifts the balance of control for production and distribution of content between corporations and consumers´ (Young, 2006) and social networking sites form part of this balance. Through online social networking, companies are better able to advertise to specific markets or discover, monitor and engage with loyal brand advocates. Conversely, they can also ³discover disgruntled customers and realise their concerns´ (Hunter, 2008). In addition to advertising through these sites, they can notify of products, announcements or competitions (Hunter, 2008) or research target markets and industry trends. They can socialise and network with industry peers (Hunter, 2008), build industry contacts (Jansson, n.d.) (Hunter, 2008),

research industry trends and updates (Reitsma, 2010), or tag and track discussions on specific topics or events (Hunter, 2008). Communication through social networking sites can also help employment through job advertising (Jansson, n.d.) or by showcasing of talent. Many aspiring artists show off their skills through such sites as YouTube or DeviantArt.

For all the benefits of social networking sites in today¶s society, it is evident that any impact they have is due to not merely the sites themselves but ³the communications layer embedded within [them]´ (Young, 2006). Social networking sites depend on the interaction between users because, according to Siegler (2009), they are ³simply an extension of social networking [in] the real world´ and ³ever since the term was born, countless people have debated the implications of taking social interactions virtual.´ At different points in time, Siegler (2009) mentions ³it has been said that [social networking] would be both the downfall of mankind, and the thing that would bring the planet together [but] the truth is that social networking, while great in many respects, does not fulfil a fundamental human desire: To be in the actual presence of other people.´ However, as an extension of offline communication, the use of social networking sites is incredibly advantageous to society. It simply must be remembered that without the basic existence of and need for interpersonal relationships and communicating with other people, social networking sites would be extraneous and insignificant.

As different parts of the world advance at different pace in education, business, tourism and so on, people tend to migrate from place to place for varying reasons, ranging from business-related reasons to pleasure-related reasons. This act of migration causes families, friends, lovers, and other related people to stay separated by distance. The invention of the internet has made communication to distant places affordable and convenient to people. Certain websites, called social networking sites, have further made various sorts of communication even more affordable and convenient. Social networking is a positive communication tool because it allows people effectively communicate regardless of distance apart.

It would be quite emotionally worrisome for one to find out that he or she would be either temporarily or permanently relocating away from his or her family. There could be psychological effects associated with being away from home. Most people go through a period of initial depression, cultural shock, or homesickness no matter how well they are prepared. The temporary feelings of missing one¶s family, home environment, friends, etc - along with the initial cultural shock, and readjustment to your new life could be daunting. Though cannot replace the feeling of being home with one¶s family in person, the technology of Skype has made it possible for many people to make free internet voice and video calls. People will worry less about cost and converse in a relaxed manner. This is especially important for people studying

abroad. Imagine having a lovely five-year-old nephew one cares so much about. The feeling of being away from home for about a year or more could pose a threat to the rapport one has already developed with such child. Video-chats, such that Skype technology provides, could go a long way in maintaining the friendly bond in such cases. Social networking can enrich social lives for those separated from family and friends by long distances, bringing them together despite the physical separation. This has been observed in a number of people in the armed forces that use Skype, Facebook, and twitter to stay in touch.

It is true that people in a relationship may not have much time to spend especially on weekdays as people go about their various work activities. The evolution of social networking has immensely contributed in strengthening the bond between these people by giving them access to communication regardless of distance. As communication is an essential ingredient to the growth of any relationship, people in relationship can converse no matter where they may be through social networking.

Interview via webcam is on the rise. Companies have drifted from phone interviews to interviews via webcam. It is believed that this mode of interview both saves time and money. Companies prefer the use of video-chat software because it gives a better sense of what a prospective employee is saying. For instance, facial expressions, and body language, go a long way in evaluating a candidate for a job. This development is important to both prospective employees and employers, because employers do not have to spend much on travel expenses for prospective employees, and employees do not have to travel all the way to another city or state for an interview.

Prior the evolution of social networking, colleges and universities offer courses only OnCampus. It was a situation where, if one wants education, he or she would has to go to the institution in person, enroll for classes, sit in classes for lectures, and take exams in person. Social networking, thanks to the internet, has changed and revolutionized education around the world. People can now graduate with a degree without even visiting the university they earned the degree from. This evolution is also important to people who want to further their education while working a full-time job. These people can comfortably take classes when it is convenient for them, and also decide on the pace of their classes. It is also important for elderly people who need or want to get a degree. Most classes nowadays are filled mainly by teenagers, and this may cause some kind of stigma to elderly people who desire to study. Imagine being in a class with students that are young enough to be one¶s children, or even grandchildren. As a result of this development, everyone can now have the opportunity of attaining a decent education for themselves regardless of age, or engagement at work.

Though the world is quite large, it now seems ³small´ due to social networking. People from different parts of the globe can connect to other people in other parts of the world, exchanging information and pleasantries. The future of social networking will have the world to seem even ³smaller´

Negative Impact of Social Networking Sites The negative impact of social networking sites is profound. Americans are becoming increasingly dependent on their social networks and the Internet. The widespread use of Smart phones and broadband Internet connections leads to increased dependency on social networks. The effects of social networking can be seen at work, in the classroom, and throughout society. Excessive use of the technology creates antisocial and house dwelling citizens who lack social skills. Productivity in the Workplace Social media and networking sites create distractions in the workplace and cost employers money. According to a 2009 report, employees spent on average of 40 minutes per week on social networking sites while at work. While 40 minutes may not sound like a long time, over a one-year period it costs employers $2.25 billion. Alternative studies by Australian researchers claim social networking increase productivity. As networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter penetrate the business world, social networking is a part of their everyday life.

There are benefits to using social networks in the business community, especially if employees are promoting the business on the Internet. Examples include posting new content to company profiles, adding pictures of work-related events, and interacting with potential clients within the communities. It is much more cost effective than cold calling or door-to-door sales. Employees who face low-performance scores or evaluations should reassess their use of social media at work. Young People and Social Media Our latest generation of high school students expose themselves to more social networking sites than ever before. The Internet surrounds us: when we are not on our laptops at home surfing the Internet we use "Smart phones" and "netbooks" to satisfy our addiction of media. Even if you have not talked to someone in a year, you know his or her entire life story by following his or her Facebook page. According to a recent study, a group of college students indicated a direct

correlation between social networking intensity and life satisfaction. The students who used social networking the most are satisfied with their life.

Furthermore, young people use social networking websites to follow otherwise mundane topics such as politics. Students use the platforms as a place to discuss current events, as witnessed in the 2008 Presidential Election. Students less likely to discuss these issues in real life participated in discussion boards, surveys, and other interactive content. Social networking sites provide young people with their news. Students are less likely to interact with traditional newspapers (i.e. writing a letter to the editor). Negative Impact of Social Networking Sites The term, "Social Networking" misleads people to believe they are social beings. Sitting in front of a computer for hours on end chatting with friends while playing Farmville does not translate into social skills. People become dependent on the technology and forget how to interact with the world around them. Social networks provide an outlet for the socially challenged to express themselves in digital form. Someone's online personality may be completely different from their offline persona, causing chaos when their two "lives" intersect." The negative impact of social networking sites is evident in online dating when the couple meets face-to-face for the first time. Commonly their personalities do not match their self-written descriptions. It is easier to type what someone wants to hear rather than telling the truth. Information posted on social networks is permanent. When someone posts pictures or videos on the Internet they go viral. When the user deletes a video from his or her social network, someone may have posted it on YouTube already. People post photographs and video files on social networking sites without thinking and the files reappear at the worst possible moments. Facebook and MySpace are excellent resources for human resource managers as it offers revealing information about a candidate's true colors. Most job seekers do not set their profiles to private, leaving an open door to their potential managers. Almost every profile contains embarrassing or compromising information to an employer, such as their political affiliation or religion. Younger generations have a complete disregard for their own privacy, opening doors to unwelcome predators or stalkers. "It can be exhilarating, at least at first, to connect with long-lost friends," says network science expert Steven Strogatz, PhD, a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. But the downside, he worries, is growing confusion between our weak ties (people who might be useful in referring us to a good dentist or helping us find a job) and our strong ties (those we're very close to). "The distinction between genuine friends and acquaintances is becoming blurred. Users are spending time maintaining relationships with people they don't really care about."

And who are these people, anyway? Electronic relationships make it easy for "friends" to misrepresent themselves²always showing their best side, for instance²notes Pauline Wiessner, PhD, a University of Utah anthropologist who studies social networks. Anonymity also allows darker impulses to flourish. In one tragic case, 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself after being cyberbullied on MySpace by Josh Evans²not a real boy, it turned out, but a creation of neighbors.

High-speed connecting may even affect the way we react to people. In a recent study out of USC, brain scans showed that volunteers needed at least four to six seconds to process stories of virtue or social pain in others. "It takes a certain amount of time to fully experience complex social emotions," says the lead author, cognitive neuroscientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang. Heavy reliance on the rapid intake of certain information²especially in younger, developing minds²could have consequences on our morality. It could also be "a whole new source of unhappiness," says Strogatz. "On Twitter the conversation never stops. You start to feel that if you're not involved in it, you're missing out It's enough to make you long for the good old days of connecting over a cup of coffe

Other insights:
Social networking sites have become a way of expression for some individuals. They feel that life would have been incomplete without these sites. These have shrunk the entire world and provided a common platform for all. Some people find it very important in this age of ever changing world where people move from one place to another very frequently. It has also bridged borders and brought about cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. The need is to utilize it effectively for good reasons and find ways to curb its negative influence. The situation also demands some kind of moral trafficking and policing to regulate its use. Even the use of a social security number or some unique national identity could be asked for while opening an account to prevent its misuse. Privacy is a concern which some of the sites like Orkut have got sensitized to and are providing security option to the users as to enable them use it as per their own discretion and avoid mishandling of their information or pictures, etc. All the uses of these networking sites vary from person to person and their mentalities. Like each system has its good things as well as bad things, these sites also have both the aspects. It now depends on the individual how well they are going to use the same. Effective utilization is the source to gaining maximum advantage out of these networking sites.

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