The definition of social networking is “the relationships that exist between network of people” (Walter & Ribiere, 2004). Today, when we talk about social networking, we think of social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, which are the top three popular social networking sites in the United States (Alexa.com, 2010). These sites are defined as web-based platforms that allow individuals to build their own profiles and reflect social relations. The users of these sites are able to “articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (Boyd &Ellison, 2008).
Within the system, the users are able to present themselves, articulate their social networks, and establish or maintain connections with others; moreover, these social networking websites can be oriented toward different fields like work-related, romantic relationship related, interest sharing related, or student community (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2008). Mostly, users participate in these sites for interaction with their friends or meet new people. With these sites, they provide various features such as profiles, comments, private messaging, photo-sharing, and video-sharing capabilities; moreover, with the improving technology, now users are capable of using mobile phones to achieve online interactions.
How Popular are Social Networking Websites?
According to an article by NielsenWire, global social networking website traffic has grown dramatically over the last three years. The article also indicates that these site users “spent more than five and half hours on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in December 2009, an 82% increase from the same time last year when users were spending just over three hours on social networking sites.”
Graph 1 below demonstrates the increasing number of users and the time per person spend on using social networking websites from December 2007 to December 2009:
Additionally, the article as well indicates that Facebook was the No.1 global networking destination, and the global users spend nearly six hour per month on the site. In U.S., the usage on Facebook and Twitter has increased tremendously over the past years; NielsenWire research shows that a 200% to 368% on these two sites, and Twitter is the fastest growing site in December 2009.
Graph 2 below demonstrates the growth of five social networking websites from December 2007 to December 2009:
Why People use Social Networking Website?
As mention before, social networking websites are designed for people to have social interactions on a web-based platform. Usually, people communicate through these sites by exchanging information posted in profiles, which may contain user’s pictures, interest and more. According to an article from Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, US college students use social networking for “social interaction with offline acquaintances in order to maintain friendships rather than to make new friends.”
With more research, the study shows that using social networking website like Facebook can create positive social capital and social interactions; teenager and college students use these sites to stay in touch with friends who they see often and who they see rare (Pempek et al., 2008). Furthermore, young users like teenagers and college students use these sites to make new friends, formulate identity, establish intimate relations and romantic relations with peers, but these sites somehow create an extreme result of both positive and negative feedback on self-esteem and peer issues.
According to “College students' social networking experiences on Facebook,” it identifies three major reasons that college students use Facebook: communicating with friends, establishing personal identity, and because it is interesting. The most common social networking...