12 December 2011
Social Networking: For the Betterment of Society
Networking in the 70’s usually referred to television. In the 80’s social networking would possibly have been defined as a complex group of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and the like. However, social networking since the mid 90’s began to expand on the World Wide Web and has continued to do so up until present day. Due to its expansion and position taken in society, social networking has become something performed on Social Networking Sites (SNS).
We define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site (Boyd and Ellison (Boyd and Ellison 211)
In fact, if you asked a teenager today what social networking is, they would more than likely arrive at an answer along the lines of the later definition; simply put, social media and SNSs have become synonymous with social networking. However, with the maturing features of the web came new risks and challenges. With proper mitigation and preventative measures the true potential of social networking can be harnessed to better society. Social networking is for the betterment of society in that it facilitates; identity formation, educational results, structural relationships, creativity, and productivity.
Researchers have tried for decades to map out the science of networking and figure out “how many intermediate acquaintance links are needed before [person] X and Z are connected,” says Christine Rosen; senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society (Rosen 23). The verb network is often used to describe an act of connecting with others intentionally. John Hopkins sociologist Mark Granovetter studied the science of networking—specifically the strength in weak ties. He published his famous paper entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties” in the American Journal of Sociology in 1973 far before the birth of the internet model used today. Granovetter theorized that the strength of weak ties lied in the innovation derived from one weak tie to another. For example, information that is privy amongst strong ties such as family friends and colleagues is well known amongst the group; however a weak tie—like a distant family member that you only see every four years at family reunions—would likely be a source of more novel information. Likewise, that distant family member will be better suited for spreading your novel information more so than your strong ties; because your strong ties more than likely know the same people that you do. In essence the world of innovation relies on the links between large social networks (Granovetter 202-210), and linking together larger social networks is exactly what SNSs are doing.
But who uses SNS media? The numbers are quite daunting actually; 7 in 10 people are active on SNSs, 9 out of 10 businesses use SNSs, and over 1 billion people around the world are registered users on at least one SNS site (Shae 10). The usage of the SNS Twitter is quite possibly the best SNS at emulating Granovetter’s theory of weak ties in that it relies heavily on content. Twitter lies second on the list in 2011 in regards to number of registered users. The site hosts over 200 million registered users and attracted over 95.8 million visitors a month in 2011 (Bennett 2). Twitter allows up to and including 140 character messages which can bridge content from around the web through links. The sites sustainability relies on followers and is open ended; meaning the base setting is to allow anyone to view another’s posts. Individuals can search for content...