You may or may not have heard of the term “Social Networking”. I’m sure you’ve heard of the sites: MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. These sites, and sites like them, are the entry points to Social Networking.
Wikipedia defines “a social network service as focusing on building on-line communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services.
Social networking has created powerful new ways to communicate and share information. Social networking websites are being used regularly by millions of people, and it now seems that social networking will be an enduring part of everyday life. Popular methods now combine many of these, with MySpace and Facebook being the most widely used in North America…”
From Steve O’Hear’s article Facebook and MySpace are like chalk ‘n’ cheese – “A teenager’s bedroom, plastered with posters (and brands) and with continuous background music, sounds a lot like a MySpace profile. Add into the room a teenager or two who are always on the phone or text messaging friends about gossip or the hottest new band — and very generally speaking, you’ve nailed much of the appeal of MySpace. The fact that teenagers are increasingly using the site’s internal messaging system over email says it all. Additionally, those posters on the wall can be other user’s profiles, which include bands and brands vying for wall space.
In contrast, Facebook is much more popular amongst college students and graduates/professionals (due to it’s University roots). The site’s design is far less customizable — you can’t decorate your room. Instead, any customization is about deciding what functionality to include. This is even more so now that third parties can set-up-shop on the site and add new features which fulfill every possible need. I logged into Facebook today to accept a few friend requests, and noticed a professional networking event, that one of my contacts was looking to hire, and another had a rather nice laptop for sale. Getting that info took seconds due to Facebook’s controlled and efficient interface. Completely different to MySpace.”
LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site and is mainly used for professional networking. The purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust in business. The people in the list are called Connections. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection.
There are security concerns for each of these sites, especially since teenagers are opening up their lives on them. The sites are trying to protect minors from on-line bullying and sexual predators and for the most part are doing a fairly good job. It is important to be educated on the risks and have your teenagers, if you have any, educated on the risks. You can find some good information at OnGuardOnline.gov.
Social networking will only grow over time. It’s now being fed to smart phones and is definitely something you should look into.