Social Networking is the grouping of individuals or organizations that have common objectives, interests and or activities. Social Networking exists as personal and direct social ties that link individuals who share similar values and beliefs. Social Networking also exists in impersonal, formal, and instrumental forms. However Social Networking of today has reached new levels. Before the Internet Boom, Social Networking was restricted to Festivals and Social occasions like Marriages, Birthday's, Religious Meetings, Conventions, Kitty Parties, Seminars, Exhibitions, Functions, Multi Level Marketing Meetings etc. It was common for people to interact with each other under such platforms. One came to know about their neighbours or acquaintances within such Social Congregations. Most Social occasions were then mostly meant for Socialising unless there was a specification for a Social occasion. However, in modern times Social Networking has got a new meaning and a new repute. Though the meaning or definition of Social Networking is still the same but it has acquired a 'New Avatar' and this 'Avatar' has been made possible by the Emergence of the Internet as a 'Communication Facilitator'. Initially Social Networking was promoted through Chat Rooms and Messengers which included the likes of Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger etc. and at the same time or so emerged Online Forums, Groups, Communities etc.
But this was just the beginning, what really took the Social Networking to new heights was the emergence of Social Network Service provided by various Social Networking Websites. One of the First Social Networking Websites was SixDegrees.com. It was named after the six degrees of separation concept and allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances both on the site and externally. Soon, a number of Social Networking Service Providers followed. Theglobe.com, Geocities, Tripod.com etc. provided personal webpage facility through easy-to-use publishing tools and free or inexpensive web-space. While some Social Network Sites like Classmates.com - took a different approach by simply having people link to each other via email addresses. With more new ideas, emerged new Social Networking Methods which were developed by the end of the 1990s. Many sites began to develop more advanced features for users to find and manage friends. This newer generation of Social Networking sites began to flourish with the emergence of Friendster in 2002. Friendster was followed by MySpace and Linked and finally, Bebo. However it was MySpace that showcased Social Networking sites' popularity. By 2005, MySpace was reportedly getting more page views than Google. Finally Facebook, launched in 2004, has since become the largest Social Networking Site in the World. Today, it is estimated that there are over 200 active sites using a wide variety of Social Networking models.
Types of Social Networking
1. Friendship Social Networking - This is the basic Social Network Community. Friends or Friendship Social Networking is the most popular Social Networking. People love to make friends Online from all around the globe and these sites facilitate that. These Networks use a variety of methods to sustain the interests of the member by providing online features like flirting, teasing, poking, truth or dare, photo shring and most of the things which make up a friendship in real life.
2. Dating Social Networking - Social Networking Dating is the new mantra in the online world. This type of networking is one of the hottest type of Networking based on attraction towards the opposite sex. Some of these Websites provide free Social Networking Directory while others are paid. These Sites facilitate Dating especially for those who don't have the skill to propose a date in the real world.
3. Business Social Networking - Business Social Networking is a tool for Social Network Marketing. It is also referred as 'Corporate Social Networking' or ‘Professional Social Networks'. These Networks help a person to advance within his/her career or industry. Generally Business Companies or Corporates have their own online community where in employees can interact with each other. They can also answer questions or queries posted by customers, which can give a person a chance to impress his/her employer. If you're a freelance copywriter, you may want to get involved in one of the many online writing communities where publishers and literary agents also tend to hang out.
4. Hobbies Social Networking - People on the Internet are involved in various activities related to their favourite hobby or pass time. Such people use the Internet to conduct research on their favourite projects or topics of interest related to personal hobbies. Such likeminded people either publish their own Website or join existing Websites related to their Hobbies and interact with people from around the world who share the same passion or interests.
5. Informational Social Networking - Informational Social Networking are those websites which provide answers to people on various topics. For example, if someone is looking for starting a business, one needs to have information which involves a web search and it leads to the discovery of countless blogs, websites, and forums filled with people who are looking for the same kind of information. These websites offer possible answers and also offer to post a question. Informational communities are often linked to, from businesses like banks, retailers, and other companies that are using social networks as a way to interact with customers. In these social networks there is a lot of 'How-To' style information and advice columns written by professionals.
Some of the Informational Social Networking Sites:
6. Educational Social Networking - Educational Networks are mostly meant for students, though anyone can use them. Students collaborate with other students on academic projects, research or to interact with professors and teachers via blogs and classroom forums. Educational social networks are becoming extremely popular within the educational system today. Most of the Colleges and Universities have their personal Websites wherein only the students of respective Institutes can join. Some Alumni also have their own respective Websites.
Some Educational Social Networking Websites:
ePALS - Connects school students from around the world to promote world peace. GoIIT - Community for Students preparing for their School & Board Exams. IIT Bombay Alumni - IIT Bombay Alumni can connect and network with each other online. The Student Room - A UK-based student community. The Math Forum - A large educational network for math students.
7. News Social Networking - These are large content websites where members publish news stories, commentary etc. These are involved in the dissemination of community content which if left unmonitored turns into a promotional gimmick filled with advertisements and self-promotion.
Social Network Sites are increasingly attracting the attention of academic and industry researchers intrigued by their affordability and reach. Internet Social Networking is a Social Phenomena of the 21st Century and has become increasingly popular nowadays as there are a lot of sites that offer this service. Social Networking Companies are involved in Social Network Development through their sites that aim to build communities of people who share common interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Social Networking Websites not only provide Social Network Service for the people but they also enhance their services through Social Network Templates and Social Networking Tools. Some of these are Open Source Social Networking Software available on the Internet which can be downloaded for free.
Inexpensive means for Socialising - A Social Networking Site is a virtual hub where people can chill out and discuss about anything. The main purpose of general Social Networking Websites is to serve as a social platform where people can reunite with old friends; stay connected with current ones, and even make new acquaintances. Since most of these offer Free of Cost Membership, these are Inexpensive means for Socialising serving various personal needs.
Enhancement of Real Life Social Skills - When interacting with people online, one acquires a unique perspective into the lives and problems of the people they interact with. While sending messages and chatting, one becomes aware of the textual communication which indirectly sharpens one's communication skills. These skills can be helpful in real life situations. When one advises and in turn receives feedback and trust, it enables mind-sharing. It also provides an environment of research and insight. Although people do not want to be told, forced, spammed or made to do anything but when you involve them, there is an environment of social exchange.
Creation of Positive Self-Image - Social Networking Sites requires a profile to be created. When one gets the chance to create a profile, one wants to showcase the best image of themselves by putting their best qualities online. This attribute proves that one cares about his/her reputation and to a certain extent what people think about them. These people can be peers, relatives, classmates or future employers.
Online Presence - These Sites provide a platform for an individual to show his/her Presence Online. One can post his Personal Profile which may includes one's hobbies, descriptions, likes and dislikes, etc. With Online Presence one can flaunt his/her abilities and can also gauge his social stature which boosts one's self confidence or self esteem.
Source of Self Promotion - Some use these networking sites to promote their blogs, to post bulletins and updates or to use them as a bridge to a future love interest. These also provide you the chance to showcase your talent which otherwise would remain confined to one's own self. For example if someone's good in Photography or Fashion, one can display his talent through these Sites. Those looking for a job can also create a profile wherein they present their online resumes to be recruited by a company.
Means to Promote Business - Though Social Networking Websites are meant for Socialising, they serve another purpose. That purpose is the Promotion of one's own business. Social Networking Websites generate a lot of business. These Sites enable the establishment of one's business among a wide variety of prospective clients. One can have better promotional techniques by posting links to his/her business site, visit community boards to learn about the members' preferences, and even have ads only with minimal fees. One can truly maximize one's own business potential by participating in Social Networking sites.
Addressing Important Issues - Another important purpose which these Websites serve is that one can use it to address various social, environmental, political and economical issues. One can create one's own social network for addressing issues which are not covered or considered less profitable by the mass media. The technology has made it possible that this can be done through Mobile Social Networking as well.
No Limitations of Physical Boundaries - Another advantage of Social Network Service is that they dilute the international boundaries which separate friends, relatives, acquaintances etc. One can remain in constant touch with his near or dear ones according to his needs. The boundaries and formalities of race, caste, creed, colour etc. are also blurred as one can chose to friend with anyone in world without any hindrance or bias.
Cons or Disadvantages of Social Networking Websites
Social Networking Addiction - Social Networking has the tendency to become an addiction. A lot of time and effort is consumed in establishing connections. Sometimes one is curious about others and starts to follow that person's online activity which is facilitated by many sites. Sometimes one wants to create a unique profile so that he/she can stand out in the crowd. This requires time and one doesn't stop unless one has finished the job. At times when one starts doing all this, he becomes addicted to these sites because it becomes one of his primary concerns. This can have adverse effect on a person's ability to work efficiently and affects one's health as well.
Privacy Issues - Endangerment to one's Privacy is one of topmost concern of those using these services. Social Networking Sites require or give a person, the option to provide personal information such one's name, location, and email address. When one provides all this information it can be used for identity theft. Any conman can copy one's information and pretend to be 'You' whilst engaging in illegal activities. This puts one's safety and security in danger. On needs to cautious as to what information he/she is providing as it can be abused when someone else pretends to be 'You'. For example, they might offer you a job or want to meet up with you just to get your money. This can lead to Cyber stalking, where the stalker uses electronic media such as the Internet to pursue or harass you.
Trolling - When Social Networking Sites are occasionally used to emotionally abuse individuals, it is known as Trolling. This has happened in the case of Facebook. It is not rare for confrontations in the real world to be translated online. Trolling can occur in many different forms, such as (but not limited to) defacement of deceased person(s) tribute pages, calling "Australians" "Austrians", playing online pranks on volatile individuals and posting controversial comments with the intention to cause anger and arguments.
Spamming - Social Networking Sites can sell one's personal information to anyone who wants to buy it, including spammers and on line predators. Even if the terms of understanding claim that no personal information will be sold, the site can change its policy at any time.
Copyright Infringement - If blogs or other original content is published at a site, the site can take over copyright privileges in unlimited ways. Few writers, artists and musicians are aware of this and forget to read the terms of understanding in order to find out what can happen to their works.
Online Bullying - A common phenomena adding to the disadvantages of Social Networking is Online Bullying. Also known as Cyber-Bullying, it is the virtual equal of the real-life Bullying. Some sites don’t put enough limitations as to what individuals can post when online. Individuals utilise the improper limitations to their favour when they post offensive remarks or pictures that could potentially cause a great amount of emotional pain for another individual. In some cases one creates a profile for real life person in manner which can ruin that person's repute by publishing offensive material.
Spreading Negative Sentiments - Social Networking Sites have the potential of having the potential of spreading Negative or Ant-Social Messages. This can happen when a person has some news or information item to share with an audience. This can spread like bushfire all around the world. And if this information happens to be negative or in bad taste, it can be potential threat to peace as it may be hard to undertake damage control.
As discussed above there are both Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Networking. One can either consider it a waste of time or consider it a great opportunity to socialise and leave the rest for later. Man is a Social Animal and it is tough to live life without any friends/boyfriends/girlfriends/bosses/workmates etc. In life we are often subjected to good and bad choices and it is only we ourselves, who can decide what we want, and it is us who also have to reap benefit or loss. Same goes with Social Networking. There is always the middle path and only we can choose how to find that path or how to utilise that path in the best possible way. We have all the time in the world to be careful in choosing whom to trust and whom not to trust, especially when it comes to socialising on the Internet.