Social Networking: the Promise, the Reality, and the Dark Side

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In 1995 the first social networking site, theglobe.com, was established (Nickson, Christopher). The way humans connect and interact with each other- and the rate at which they could do it- was never the same. Today, people can contact their aunt 20,000 miles away with the simple click of a button. However, social networking did not start with Facebook and MySpace. Social networking sites were born from the BBS, which stands for the Bulletin Board System (Nickson, Christopher). These online meeting places were independently-produced and allowed users to communicate with a central system where they could download files or games and post messages to other users. The BBS’s could only be accessed from a telephone modem so most users only connected with local people to avoid long distance charges. These local connections turned into an online gathering place for cities and counties. Although painstakingly slow, the Bulletin Board System of connecting with other people gained popularity very quickly. Humans have a natural need for community and socialization. This was why Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist, created Dunbar’s Number. Dunbar's number is a theoretical limit of the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships with. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is. Dunbar's number, which on average is 150, states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, it does not include the number of people known personally but do not talk to any longer (Sen, Apurba and Weiss, Taly). However, the stability of these connections have changed over the time that social networking has been around. An individual might have 250 friends online, but studies have shown the group of people that the individual is “just barely in-touch” with is the highest compared to the individual’s “one-way relationships” and “closest friends”, which on average is only three people. When the first social networking site was

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