3. How is social networking being used?
By gathering data from the top social networking websites; who utilizes these sites and for what purpose, we can gain a better understanding of the degree of influence that social networking has on socialization. What methods of social networking can be used to gather data on the influence of socialization? After the introduction of the Web, social networking websites evolved and we could no longer assume that it was business and communiqué as usual. Social networking has the unique ability to self-organize and increase social interface at an impressive pace. In the article “Social Networks: Facebook Takes Over Top Spot, Twitter Climbs” Andy Kazeniac of Compete.com, states that as of February 2009, the top three social networking giants are Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. (Kazeniac, 2009). These free websites allow you to create a persona based on how you would like to be perceived by society through online conversation. Since the social networking conversation is not controlled or organized, users find it easier to share personal information and opinions. To that point, there are over 400 million active Facebook users who spend over 500 billion minutes per month using the service as reported by Facebook Press Room “Facebook Statistics 2010”, (Facebook, 2010). Facebook is considered the fastest growing social networking website with the most influence over its demographic. Users interact by becoming a fan of the user, participating in blogs, posting pictures and videos and commenting on posts. Each user has the capability to personalize their page’s content using an array of options. Pages can be as private or as open as the user deems necessary and can be changed at their discretion just as easily. There is a newsfeed feature that updates the user and their fans continuously as they post so the network of friends are always connected and informed. Twitter is a “micro” blogging site that allows users to send updates or “tweets” to its “followers” using 140 characters or less. It’s aimed toward keeping the user’s network informed of their activities throughout the day. Celebrities have popularized the use of Twitter, often using it as their podium to market themselves and maintain a cult following. In April 2010, Twitter boasted 106 million users worldwide as reported by Jay Yarow of BusinessInsider.com in the article, “Twitter Finally Reveals All Its Secret Stats”. (Yarow, 2010). Twitter is a mainstay for distributing timely information, promoting a person or a product and building credibility and influence. Myspace mirrors Facebook in terms of providing the user with a page to publish information that is available for people the user allows, to read their content and post comments. Aside of some technological differences, they two are very similar in achieving the goal of providing a form communication to the masses via the web. Who uses social networking websites?
It is safe to say that almost every industry from the home user to Fortune 500 companies use social networking in some form or fashion. Businesses use it for marketing and advertising their brand while home users utilize social networking websites for anything from business, entertainment and socializing. The fact that millions of people worldwide are reached through these methods instantaneously, makes these sites socially and economically significant to society. Many people have changed the way they do business and entertain since the commencement of social networking. According to a study done in February 2010 by Pingdom.com, (Pingdom, 2010), the age group that dominates the social networking sphere are 35-44 year old users. This is the generation of people who were in their 20s as the internet took flight in the mid ‘90s. They make up 25% of social networking website users while the 0-17 year olds come in 4th overall with 15%. Since socialization begins in our formative years (0-17), it’s safe to say that with that the new exposure to social networking sites and how we correspond, we are faced with an alternative to the traditional inception of values, norms and culture. How is social networking being used?
The responsibility of a social networking website is to build and nurture social relationships amongst people in society just like socialization. In fact, its initial intention was to allow people from all diverse backgrounds who share common interests, ideas and activities to commune electronically. Dating has even become a simple feat thanks to social networking. People are matched based on their shared aims. As social networking users have increased, many cutting edge businesses decided to take a chance on this emerging trend and began using savvy marketing to build their brands. In recent years, it has also become quite common for a wide variety of organizations to employ the use of social networking as a cost-effective way to advertise their products and services. The same way that people have trusted the customary approach of socialization to build a functioning society, social networking sites now use the power of public opinion to achieve the same result. Since most of our social networking is comprised of our friends and people we know, organizations and businesses aim to influence our opinion in hopes that we spread that message to the people we trust. In all areas of science, the use of scientific method is used to test hypotheses and prove theories, however not all of the steps in the scientific method used in natural science can be used in the exploration of social science. Natural science uses the scientific method to seek the cause and effect relationships in nature and produces more visible conclusions, while social science concludes a higher amount of uncertainty in the outcome. In both natural science and social science, you can ask a question and provide a purpose for your research to begin your observation. Observation and analysis in the form of census, survey, focus groups, statistics, interviews and market research are key methods in obtaining social science study conclusions. These methods are a way of measuring human behavior in order to obtain information. Quantitative research is a form of observation that focuses on measurements and amounts characterized by the people and events that are being studied and qualitative observation involves the description of characteristics of people and events without measurements (Thomas, 2003, p. 1). For example, there is quantifiable data available for the number of social networking website users (quantitative) and we can discern what millions of people are using social networking to do (qualitative). Although both can send research in opposite directions, they can be used in the same project to measure correlations in data. Once your observation is complete, you can form a hypothesis or an educated guess on the conclusion of your research. Your hypothesis should be a provisional statement about the association of two or more variables and support the main research idea; conversely, testing your hypothesis or performing an experiment is where the scientific method differs in the sciences. In social science, it is not easy to experiment or directly manipulate one variable while measuring the effects of another on a large scale due to the inability to establish and maintain a control group. Basically, people in social science studies are harder to control than molecules in a natural science study with unpredictable human behavior being a direct result. Social Science analysis and conclusion of results is usually comprised of current findings since the study of social behavior is on-going as the variables are altered continuously and results of a natural science study prove to be more pragmatic and directly answers the research question. Overall, the scientific method affords a way to follow comparable practices to ensure the standardization of research processes and equivalent results in all areas of science. Using the basic principles of scientific method, it can be concluded that social networking has overwhelmingly influenced the way we communicate and socialize. It has changed the way we keep in touch with people, how we do business and what we can influence. Decade after decade, cultures go through an abundance of changes, and recently ours has been more impacted by social networking than anything else. There are only 4 periods in the last 500 years where networking has changed enough to qualify as a revolution; the printing press in the 1400’s, the telegraph/telephone in the 1800’s followed by photos, recorded sound, radio and television (Clay, 2009). Social networking now encompasses all four of these revolutionary ideas into one entity. With the ever-increasing growth of technology, we will continue to see pivotal changes in societal interaction and communication as a result.