Social Networking for the Betterment of Society
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Jackie Turner Professor Bricker English 103 12 December 2011 Social Networking: For the Betterment of Society Networking in the 70’s usually referred to television. In the 80’s social networking would possibly have been defined as a complex group of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and the like. However, social networking since the mid 90’s began to expand on the World Wide Web and has continued to do so up until present day. Due to its expansion and position taken in society, social networking has become something performed on Social Networking Sites (SNS).
We define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site (Boyd and Ellison (Boyd and Ellison 211)
In fact, if you asked a teenager today what social networking is, they would more than likely arrive at an answer along the lines of the later definition; simply put, social media and SNSs have become synonymous with social networking. However, with the maturing features of the web came new risks and challenges. With proper mitigation and preventative measures the true potential of social networking can be harnessed to better society. Social networking is for the betterment of society in that it facilitates; identity formation, educational results, structural relationships, creativity, and productivity.
Researchers have tried for decades to map out the science of networking and figure out “how many intermediate acquaintance links are needed before [person] X and Z are connected,” says Christine Rosen; senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society (Rosen 23). The verb network is often used to describe an act of connecting with others intentionally. John Hopkins sociologist Mark Granovetter studied the science of networking—specifically the strength in weak ties.
He published his famous paper entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties” in the American Journal of Sociology in 1973 far before the birth of the internet model used today. Granovetter theorized that the strength of weak ties lied in the innovation derived from one weak tie to another. For example, information that is privy amongst strong ties such as family friends and colleagues is well known amongst the group; however a weak tie—like a distant family member that you only see every four years at family reunions—would likely be a source of more novel information.
Likewise, that distant family member will be better suited for spreading your novel information more so than your strong ties; because your strong ties more than likely know the same people that you do. In essence the world of innovation relies on the links between large social networks (Granovetter 202-210), and linking together larger social networks is exactly what SNSs are doing. But who uses SNS media? The numbers are quite daunting actually; 7 in 10 people are active on SNSs, 9 out of 10 businesses use SNSs, and over 1 billion people around the world are registered users on at least one SNS site (Shae 10).
The usage of the SNS Twitter is quite possibly the best SNS at emulating Granovetter’s theory of weak ties in that it relies heavily on content. Twitter lies second on the list in 2011 in regards to number of registered users. The site hosts over 200 million registered users and attracted over 95. 8 million visitors a month in 2011 (Bennett 2). Twitter allows up to and including 140 character messages which can bridge content from around the web through links. The sites sustainability relies on followers and is open ended; meaning the base setting is to allow anyone to view another’s posts.
Individuals can search for content and are returned posts by others containing that content; thus the spread of novel information through weak ties. Individuals have the option to follow another individual based on content in order to have the novel content from that other user displayed on their homepage from that point on. One can see why this site is so revolutionary; as it has become a powerful tool for communicating scientific research, scholary topics, and ground-breaking ideas beyond one’s strong ties. In the U. S. lone, teenagers spend on average 24 hours and 54 minuets a month on the web; half of those teens will have visited MySpace, accounting for about 28% of their page views and 12% of Facebook’s (McCafferty 19). The high usage of SNSs amongst youth does not sit well with digital immigrants. I was sitting down with my nephew one day who was playing Pokemon. His parents were considerably concerned with his obsession for the game; although his father halfheartedly admited that at the same age he could name all 50 states and their capitals with the same passion that his son now had for almost 400 (and growing) characters.
Not only did my nephew remember characters, but he knew their skill sets and how to custimize the game with editing tools that his father wouldn’t know how to begin to manipulte. He was using creativity and mastering manual dexterity all while doing something that he enjoyed; point being that new creative ways of learning and communicating are not not the be all end all of time. Newer an more innovative ways of communicating and learning are bound to be introduced in the future, and the ones of today should not be discredited simply because they are different than those of the past.
It is almost absurd to simply ignore social media and act as though it doesn’t exist, and that is exactly what some institutions are telling their students and teachers; leave SNSs and social media at home. Many educational institutes are banning SNSs, wikis, and social media of the like. These social media tools provide great benefit in the classroom over older linear learning methods. Kerstin Hamann, Philip H. Pollock, and Bruce M. Wilson found that students who participated in a web-enhanced class outperformed those students in a traditional lecture format.
This research suggests that social media based courses actively engage students in an exclusive way from that of the conventional face-to-face class setting (Hamann, Pollock, and Wilson 3). Isn’t it important to teach digital natives the best practiced ways of utilizing the best tools available, and ultimately the tools that they will be using in the job sector. It isn’t enough to teach children on outdated donated computers and expect them to be top performers in a job force using social media, e-commerce, and up-to-date operating systems.
Of course digital natives are stereotypically assumed to be the masters of the internet since birth, but Dr. Jakob Nielsen’s study points out an astounding different truth. Using a broad range of sites including school resource sites, health related sites, news, government, and e-commerce, Nielsen measured a success rate of 55 percent for teens compared to a 66 percent success rate for adults in respect to completing prescibed tasks. Nielsen says that, “even though users are remarkably good at repeated tasks on their favorite sites, they’re stumped by the smallest usability problems when they visit new sites for the first time.
Although risks exist and can pose grave consequenses it is important not to ignore the benefits or understate the convolution of the challenge. The important thing to take away from these social applications is that they are not simply chatrooms of the Web 1. 0 days, they are maluable tools. Wikapedia for example is not your Encyclopedia Britanica of years past—no—it is a “knowledge community, uniting, anonymous readers all over the world who edit and correct grammar, style, interpretations, and facts,” says Davidson (Davidson 2).
These social applications grow only by the aid of more users. Many online companies continue to grow and many more continue to be formed even after the dot. com bubble burst. In 2004 a conference dubbed the Web 2. 0 summit attempted a pinpoint just exactly gave some companies the ability to survive the dot. com bust; why some companies failed, and why other new emerging companies were doing so well. The centralized answer to the questions posed at the conference was a social network structure. It means building applications that literally get better the more people use them, harnessing network effects not only to acquire users, but also to learn from them and build on their contributions,” says Reilly and Battelle, the creators of the Web 2. 0 summit. SNSs have begun to do just that; blur the lines of sociality in offline with those of online life. Web 2. 0 is the technical explanation of the web reinvented. The upgraded web has shifted from a tranquil netting of html coding into a breathing epicenter of social and shared connections through blogs, wikis, SNS, and web applications. In the Web 1. days social media was web message boards and chat rooms, but today in the Web 2. 0 days, social media is paid; internet advertising, PPC-search marketing, mobile advertising, sponsorships, and paid applications. Social media is also owned; brand and product websites, mobile brand and product websites, proprietary mobile applications, customer care services, proprietary digital content, and proprietary blogs. Frankly, that’s a huge leap from Web 1. 0. In 2009, Dell—who is the third larges producer of PCs—earned $6. 5 million in sales through direct customer interaction via Twitter (Guglielmo 1).
Nike—a household name around the world—began using social media for the Nike+ campaign in 2009. Although many corporations fail in creating actual social networks within their companies, Nike has succeeded. Nike’s Digital Brand and Innovation Director Jesse Stollak talks about the revolutionary product and it’s effect within the sports community: “The Nike+ community has grown tremendously in past couple years with the addition of new products like the (Nike+ GPS App and Nike+ GPS Sport watch). To date, we have 5+ million members in the Nike+ community.
We’ve added new features like the new Maps site, which leverages a wealth of run route data to provide recommendations. We also included the ‘cheer me on’ functionality inside the Nike+ GPS app, which taps into the runners’ friends on Facebook for additional motivation and support. When they are running, they hear applause on top of their music when friends ‘cheer’ them (Swallow 1). ” These are just two examples of how the business industry is embracing current social networking methods, along with creating their own. These changes in the business world are remarkable and innovative.
This is use of social networking for the betterment of society; however with the good that social networking brings, it also raises challenges. Of the first academic studies on SNS privacy performed, it was found that social security numbers could be pieced together based on publically listed hometown and date of birth information posted on Carnegie Mellon University user’s Facebook profiles (Boyd and Ellison 222). In a separate study researchers found that an increasing number of emplyees were being fired for sharing sensitive business data, along with making unprofessional posts on SNSs (Savage 53).
It only suggests that perhaps the knowledge and awareness level has not been afforded to all users equally. Social networking, just like all tools, can be utilized for good only if the proper education is instilled at the inauguration or prior to it’s use. The darker side of social networking is that is has been the tool used by a minority of users to terrorize others. A new problem concerning youth in America is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined by the Cyberbullying Research Center as “repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cellphones and other electronic devices (Miller 1). In fact, 21% of 11-18 year olds who use electronic media say they have been cyber bullied; moreover cyberbullying is unlike conventional school-yard bullying in that it is harder to find the perpetrator. Sgt. Gary Renninger of the Montgomery Country Computer Crimes Unit says, “to investigate a case of cyberbullying, you’re going to have to identify who’s behind the keyboard, and that’s the biggest issue. It all comes down to resources (Miller 3). ” Legislation is currently passed in 35 states to counteract this growing problem, however it’s difficult for the law to jurisdict such fast growing technology.
Again, perhaps the available knowledge and level of awareness are not being afforded to all users at a young age. A separate but equally dark epidemic in the social networking community is predation. An estimated 90,000 sexual offenders were removed from MySpace in 2009; nearly double the number of sexual offenders estimated by MySpace in 2008 (Walker 1). Although MySpace, and its competitor Facebook have set in place safeguards to protect minors, it is ultimately the parents and mentor role models job to educate and educate and mediate the youth interaction with social media.
Looking ahead, social media has the potential to change—even more—the way society learns, does commerce, and interacts with one another. With all the benefits social networking has to offer, mediation of the risks can resolve a great deal of the challenges presented. Enhancing media literacy, and empowering young minds with the tools available is one step in the direction of affording the appropriate knowledge and awareness level. Media literacy is a range of skills that integrate critical thinking into the wide range of tasks performed through media (Rosen 10).
Danah Boyd, a graduate student studying social networks at the University of California Berkley, says “It’s where you learn social norms, rules, how to interact with others, narrative, personal and group history (Rosen 11). ” These skills are the foundation to integrating the use of social media into the classroom, and solidifying the knowledge base to afford youth the ability to practice essential cyber security in the future. In a world where we are no longer drawing cave drawings and instead were reading and writing, a renaissance of knowledge is shared in a more efficient way.
Not to say that reading and writing are not essential skills; social media services however enable anyone to be a producer of media. In the act of sharing creative content elemental communication skills are built upon; it warrants individuals the benefit of nurturing literacy and technological skills and begins the formation of identity. Christine Rosen explains that self-portraits were in way, windows into the creator. They “[show] the artist both as he [or she] sees [their] true self and as he [or she] whishes to be seen. ” Self-portraits were a great tool for self-expression and for self- seeking.
She makes the valid point that today’s self-portrait is an individuals personal webpage, Facebook page, or MySpace page. The digital portrait is laced with music, font, hobbies, and interactive web applications. Youth learn to edit code, update and tweak their self-portrait from young ages. Their digital canvas is a tool that can be quite reveling and educational for the youth, parents, teachers, and mentors. This can and is in some settings a unique and valuable tool into creating a sense of community and critical peer-based sociality (Boyd and Ellison 217)
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