Social Networking Is Virtual Communities Essay Example
Social Networking Is Virtual Communities Essay Example

Social Networking Is Virtual Communities Essay Example

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  • Pages: 16 (4192 words)
  • Published: August 2, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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This article explores the assertion that computer-mediated social networking sites have produced virtual communities, with a specific focus on and The article examines the concept and importance of virtual communities, while also analyzing the features of these popular social networking platforms. By comparing the principles and attributes of social networking sites to those of virtual communities, the article seeks to establish a connection between them.


The article addresses the ongoing debate surrounding privacy concerns., a website that offers updated data on global web traffic and popularity rankings, recently disclosed that currently holds the second spot in popularity among all websites, with being the only site ahead. Moreover, other platforms like Windows,,, and also maintain notable rankings. This emphasizes the immense triumph of social networking sites t


hat have become an integral component of our contemporary online community.

The purpose of the essay is to investigate the creation of virtual communities through new computer-mediated social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. These communities primarily communicate through media like newsletters, phones, email, internet social networking services, and instant messages rather than in-person interactions. In the online world, there are various types of virtual communities including instant messaging apps, email systems, chat rooms, blogs, and YouTube for sharing photos and videos. Additionally, there are virtual reality environments and online gaming environments like Second Life. These websites and features make use of Web 2.0 technology (Boneva et al., 2006; Gross, 2004).

Web 2.0 and Virtual Community The ongoing digital revolution is leading to a "new information environment" (Bimber, 2003). Web 2.0 is the main technology that can stimulate the development of virtual communities.

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According to Pew, Web 2.0 enables individuals to use different information and communication technologies for self-expression and participation in online communities (Pew, 2007, p.ii). It is considered crucial for creating a multi-user environment which forms the foundation of the internet concept. While Web 1.0 facilitated some online communities like chat rooms initially, its primary focus was on bringing people together for conversations or chats. In contrast, Web 2.0 promotes more interaction among groups through versatile tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds, etc.

According to Anderson (2007), Web 2.0 technologies enable a more interconnected web, allowing individuals to continuously contribute and edit information. Cheung and Lee (2009) further explain that the widespread use of these technologies has made sharing information easier, resulting in a more interactive, personalized, social, and media-rich online environment. A key aspect of Web 2.0 is its straightforward approach to creating and publishing content on the internet.

The internet offers a virtual community where people can freely share interests and exchange information, much like organisms interacting in a shared environment. Sociologists are currently discussing the concept of community and working to establish a clear definition. Traditionally, community has been defined as a group of individuals living in the same area who interact with one another.

According to Daniel Memmi, a community can be defined as a unique societal group with strong personal links. In Brunel University's dance community, members have come together through shared interests and have formed strong personal connections by participating in community activities. This is similar to certain online communities, like fandom blogs, where members also share common interests and build strong personal relationships. However, real-life communities are often smaller because

it is challenging for members to know each other and develop relationships in a large community. In traditional communities, face-to-face communication plays an important role in sharing information and maintaining relationships. Virtual communities, on the other hand, retain some key characteristics of traditional communities but also display some differences.

Location; A; clip flexibility

The need for physical community members to gather at the same location or time is not necessary. 'The World Wide Web' serves as the meeting spot for all members of any virtual community. Individuals from around the world can join any virtual community and engage in activities at their convenience. This advantage is a result of the web society's characteristics.

According to Manuel Castells (1996: 445), the concept of 'timeless clip' is a well-known concept regarding time and space in modern online society. He argues that the internet society strives for a 'forever existence', where the limitations of time are continually pushed back. For example, websites like have collaborated with cell phone manufacturers to allow users to upload videos directly from their mobile phones, enabling instant access from anywhere.


Typically, successful virtual communities, like, have a large number of members. According to the official website statistics ( 2010), they have over 300 million active users, with 50% of them logging in daily. Additionally, the average user on the site has 130 friends. This distinguishing feature separates virtual communities from traditional ones, as they cannot accommodate such a large size.

Traditional communities require members to form relationships with each other and stay in contact. This is not necessary in larger communities, where it may not be mandatory for members to interact.


personal connections or impersonal connections

As previously stated, traditional practical communities rely on strong personal connections. However, certain practical communities, such as or, are built on more functional connections.

According to Memmi (2006), practical communities are typically large and characterized by casual and impersonal relationships. Individuals engage in these communities with the aim of seeking value and profit. For instance, on, members have the opportunity to buy or sell their products, while offers its members access to the latest news and updates on topics of interest. These virtual communities closely resemble our real modern society as people join them for the convenience, value, democracy they provide, and primarily for exchanging information online.

The exchange of assistance among members for IT-related tasks is promoted on websites like These sites consider knowledge and information as valuable resources. Members can either ask questions or provide solutions to help others. It is essential to recognize that the relationships formed on this website are not strong personal bonds, unlike social networking sites such as and online games. Practical communities, according to Memmi's concept, are generally impersonal; however, with the increasing popularity of these social networking sites, they have become an integral part of practical communities where individuals maintain personal relationships.

U.M. Dholakia, R.P. Bagozzi, and L.K. Pearo (2004: 224) identified five types of value offering in their tabular array of 'the values of utilizing a practical community':

Purposive value: Practical communities facilitate online information exchange, allowing individuals to acquire knowledge in specific areas and share their own information with other members to fulfill community goals.

Self-discovery: Participation in a practical community grants individuals access to societal resources and

aids in the achievement of future goals. Interacting with others also helps individuals clarify and expand upon their preferences. (U.M.)

Dholakia, R.P. Bagozzi and L.K. Pearo (2004: 224) state that the entertainment value of online games such as MMORPG or virtual reality games like Second Life provides a platform for people to play and relax in. Additionally, many social networking sites have similar features to online games. They explain that this value is derived from having fun and relaxing while interacting with others. (U.M.)

Dholakia, R.P. Bagozzi and L.K. Pearo (2004: 224) discuss the concept of "social sweetening." This value is commonly embraced by various social networking sites, which allow users to create personal profiles detailing their interests, favorite books, alma mater, and even quirky preferences like whether they enjoy dating aliens.

The information regarding personal relevancy can assist members in enhancing their social position within online communities by gaining credibility and approval from other members. In today's society, characterized by impersonal, impermanent, and functional connections, it is crucial to maintain interpersonal relationships. German sociologists Tonnies, Simmel, and Weber have emphasized the distinction between traditional community (Gemeinschaft) and modern society (Gesellschaft). Personal relationships are substituted by functional roles and responsibilities as the foundation of social status in modern Gesellschaft-type societies.

The growing size of these organizations makes it impossible to personally know all other group members, and societal functioning is guided by rules, regulations, and contracts rather than traditional customs and personal obligations. Individual members may belong to multiple groups and group identity is weaker. (Daniel Memmi, 2006) Within this social structure, the inevitability of loneliness emerges. That's why people are eager to express themselves and maintain contact

with their friends on or engage in a virtual online game like MMORPG. Participating in these types of virtual communities can provide additional benefits beyond information exchange - the sense of togetherness and belonging, spending time together, companionship, socialization, and networking to discuss the same topic with others regardless of the distance between members.

Most individuals utilize social networking sites to find support and connection in a practical community. This article will examine today's social networking sites in various sections.

Social networking sites

According to Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison (2007), societal networking sites are "web-based services that enable individuals to create a public or semi-public profile within a specific system, connect with other users, and view and track their connections as well as those made by others within the system." Mike Thelwall (2008) similarly argues that social networking sites are web servers that allow internet users to become members of the site by registering.

The members of the platform can connect with others by sending friend requests and showcasing their personal profiles. These profiles are usually created when registering as a member and can be modified by uploading images, videos, or other relevant information. Only those who accept friend requests will have access to the complete online profile of their friends. Additionally, many social networking sites offer various applications like instant messaging, blogging, photo sharing, and online gaming to enhance member interaction.

Actually, members appear to be using social networking sites both to maintain old relationships and to meet new people online. Previous research has shown that the concept of 'friendship' is crucial in analyzing these sites, and they also provide benefits in terms of both

weak and strong ties.

Weak Ties and Strong Ties

The idea of weak ties was introduced by M. Ganovetter in 1973. He proposed that there are two types of relationships between people - 'weak ties' and 'strong ties'.

According to Williams (2006), weak ties are distinct from strong ties as they typically occur between individuals with different backgrounds. Weaker ties often involve people who are less similar to the first person, leading to connections with a wider variety of people and providing a broader range of information and opportunities. Social websites are now encouraging individuals to develop weak tie relationships across the globe.

By joining social networking sites like and, individuals have the opportunity to make new friends online and feel connected to the world, allowing them to stay informed about current events. Additionally, weak ties relationships can provide diverse perspectives on hot topics from individuals with different backgrounds. While many social networks prioritize the establishment of weak ties relationships, Facebook also places importance on building strong ties. Unlike other platforms, Facebook encourages users to connect with their offline friends rather than strangers online. These friends may include individuals from the same background, such as former university classmates.

People with strong ties may have close friends who share important information. allows members to stay in touch with their offline friends online. This article will compare the features of two popular social networking sites - &

Background information about &

In February 2004, was introduced in the USA. Initially, it was exclusively for Harvard students and later expanded to Stanford, Columbia, and Yale students as well. Over time, it reached most universities in America, allowing

students to connect with each other and find their friends on the platform (Lewis & West, 2009).

The website was first launched in the United Kingdom in October 2005 as a exclusive online community for university students, but it later transformed into a social networking site that became accessible to anyone with a valid email address in 2006. According to (2007b), by 2007 more than half of its users were no longer enrolled in universities. similarly had its beginnings in the United States.

Originally, started off as a popular online storage and sharing site called until 2002 (YOLANDA VILLATE 2002). During the years 2002-2004, functioned as a trade name associated with and underwent a transformation from a practical storage site to a social networking platform. Currently, ranks as the 5th most visited website in the USA and the 23rd in the UK. Unlike, focuses on fostering connections between members who come from different backgrounds and may have never met before. places a strong emphasis on fandom, making it one of the most successful platforms globally. Online and offline relationships play a crucial role in social networking sites, and this is recognized by both and According to Mike Thelwall (2008), the concept of social network friendship has been extensively studied.

In terms of, it remains the favorite social networking site for students. According to a study conducted by Golder, Wilkinson, and Huberman in 2007, most communication on occurs between students at the same college or who have previously attended the same college. Jennefer Hart, Charlene Ridley, Fasial Taher, Corina Sas, Alan Dix (2008) suggest that

what sets apart from other social networking sites is its ability to enhance offline relationships through online connections. Members of use the website to maintain relationships with their friends outside the online realm. They can also search for past friends from college and even high school. Therefore, has become a "social search engine."

There is a lot of interest among people in reconnecting with old friends and being able to interact with them regardless of distance. According to McCartjy and Wright, users tend to focus more on strengthening existing offline relationships instead of meeting new people. Unlike, seems to have a divide between education-oriented users on and primarily non college-educated users on MySpace. primarily aims to build weak ties relationships between its members.

When registering on, individuals are asked to specify the type of relationship they are seeking, such as dating, a serious relationship, or friendship. Additionally, encourages users to join where they can become members of bands or musicians. This enables members who are fans of these musicians or bands to stay updated on their latest news and activities.

Furthermore, the attractiveness of being connected with graven images or famous persons is a major reason why members of are drawn to the site. While focuses on weak ties and friendships, recent research by Thelwall (2008) suggests that more and more people are bringing their offline relationships to, similar to what happens on Additionally, has seen the registration of many famous individuals who allow members to follow their activities. This expansion of social networking sites (SNS) has made them more comprehensive rather

than focused on one specific aspect.

The main reason why people join SNS, as mentioned earlier in the article, is to maintain offline friendships or make new ones online. However, the specific activities they engage in on these SNS are not yet clear. This is highlighted by research conducted by Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Stephanie M.

According to Reich, Natalia Waechter, and Guadalupe Espinoza (2008), the chart provided illustrates that participants primarily utilized societal networking sites for social reasons, specifically to stay in touch with offline friends they don't often see (81%). Additionally, 61% used these sites because all their friends already had accounts, 48% used them to stay in touch with family and relatives, and 35% used them to make plans with friends they regularly see. However, it is noteworthy that the trend among today's social networking site users in the samples is a decrease in using these sites to find new online friendships (29%). Instead, most university students preferred engaging with users they already knew rather than seeking new friends, discovering new music, or finding groups to discuss specific issues.

According to research conducted by Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Stephanie M. Reich, Natalia Waechter, and Guadalupe Espinoza in 2008, this chart displays the activities that members of social networking sites most commonly engage in online. The majority of users (77%) spend their time reading and responding to notes and messages. Additionally, 75% read comments and posts on their own profile pages or walls, while 66% visit their friends' pages and profiles to view content. Other popular activities include leaving comments on friends' pages, posting on others' walls, and tagging photos (54%). Users also dedicate a significant amount of time

to searching for new friends, browsing profiles, and editing/updating their own profile and status.

The findings in the study by Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Stephanie M. Reich, Natalia Waechter, and Guadalupe Espinoza (2008) indicate that individuals are less willing to create or join a new group. These research findings can help determine the extent to which social networking sites have fostered virtual communities, by comparing the value of virtual communities with the behavior of SNS members. In the following section, we will discuss two popular social networking websites: and

Value of virtual communities and social networking sites

This article was discussed previously by Christy M.K.

Cheung and Matthew K.O. Lee ( 2009 ) highlighted the work of R.P Bagozzi and U.M. Dholakia ( 2002 ) which identified approximately five different types of value people may obtain from practical community – purposive value, self-discovery, amusement value, societal enhancement, and maintaining interpersonal relationships.

Purposive value is evident on through applications like intelligence provenders, which enable members to share updates about themselves.

There is no other information that members can acquire from the web site or from other members unless other members share their information with you. offers better purposeful value compared to Members can connect with musicians and bands on the history web site to keep track of their new releases, listen to their new music, or view freshly uploaded music pictures and videos. Most importantly, all the music is free. Celebrities like the USA president Obama also have a blog on Members can access his recent announcements or speeches on his blog. While this information has some purposeful value, there are still restrictions on

this type of value compared to other professional picture or information sharing websites such as

Self-discovery value

Both and allow members to explore current hot issues by sharing their opinions on their blogs.

Peoples can be affected by others through their comments or stance on a specific event or issue. is the most influential social networking site in this regard. When users access, they don't even need to register; they can search for topics they are interested in and see how people from around the world think about them. The place page of also provides the hottest keywords for recommendations.

Entertainment value

Jennefer Hart, Chariene Ridley, Faisal Taher, Corina Sas, and Alan Dix (2008) argue that one of the main reasons for both connecting and engaging with social networking sites like is the "social pleasure."

Social pleasance refers to the enjoyment derived from using social networking sites. provides various features and applications for members to connect with each other. One interesting concept on Facebook is the 'wall', where friends can write messages or post pictures. Additionally, offers numerous online mini-game apps that can be played with friends.

Most of the mini online games are quite interesting. offers similar games as, and also allows members to build relationships with musicians and watch music videos for fun. This information suggests that around 50% of participants join social websites to have fun and avoid boredom.

Social enhancement

The research findings indicate that a majority of social website members continuously update their profiles and write comments. This is a way for them to express themselves and improve their social status.

According to Jennefer Hart, Chariene Ridley,

Faisal Taher, Corina Sas, and Alan Dix (2008), representing oneself in a social situation was a significant aspect of Similarly, Sonia Livingston (2008) suggests that individuals on the internet always pay attention to how they present themselves. Expressing one's identity, lifestyle, and social relationships has become an important part of creating and networking online content. Social networking sites like and allow members to create their own profiles to showcase themselves and share them with friends. Additionally, provides various ways for members to exhibit themselves on the platform, such as sharing photos and videos with their friends.

The process of markup for becoming a member of not only demonstrates that the individual's personal profile can enhance their social status, but it also requires additional detailed information. In addition to basic personal details, requests information such as occupation, ethnicity, and the desired type of relationship (options include dating, serious relationships, friends, or networking). Furthermore, by selecting the background and lifestyle link, users can provide more specific details such as marital status, sexual orientation, religion, and their stance on having children. This collection of intricate information allows for more precise targeting by individuals seeking to connect with a particular type of person who has clear intentions.

Members can be better identified by their complex profiles. According to Jane Lewis and Anne West (2009), social networking sites expect members to create profiles, which can provide more information about their individual appearance and self-presentation.

Maintain interpersonal relationships

Research indicates that the reason people join social networking sites like is to stay connected with friends they don't often see. This aligns with the value of virtual communities,

which suggests that individuals are more willing to maintain contact with others.

Nicole B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Charles Steinfield (2007) argued that our generation is becoming more isolated due to modern technology. People are becoming busier and facing greater stress from society. It is increasingly demanding for individuals to maintain contact with their friends. provides opportunities to make new friends and reconnect with old friends. It not only helps people to reconnect but also brings back memories from the past (Jennefer Hart, Chariene Ridley, Faisal Taher, Corina SAS, Alan Dix 2008). can suggest potential friends based on common connections with existing friends. It can be surprising to see someone you know on the suggested friend list. has been updated and now has a similar design to The article discusses how social networking sites are connecting the online and offline worlds. It is easy to see the relationship between social networking sites and virtual communities by examining their value and characteristics. From this analysis, we can conclude that they share many similarities and features. This demonstrates that social networking sites contribute to the creation of virtual communities by providing value that other social networking sites cannot support, such as technology and information exchange. These aspects of virtual communities are being developed by websites like YouTube and Wikipedia, which focus more on impersonal connections.

The privacy issue surrounding social websites

The issue of privacy has become a concern due to the use of popular community and social networking sites like as a means of surveillance and data mining. It is important to highlight this issue as numerous case studies have shown the

threats to user safety. For example, two MIT students conducted a research project on Facebook privacy, published on December 14, 2005, where they were able to download over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four universities (MIT, New York University, the University of Oklahoma, and Harvard University) using an automated script. The potential for data mining is still present, as demonstrated in May 2008 by the BBC technology program "Click," which showed that personal information of Facebook users and their friends could be stolen through malicious applications.

We are benefiting from the new engineering environment, but this engineering also benefits those who want to gather personal information from the community. Acquisti and Gross (2006) discussed that there is a gap between students' desire for privacy and their actions. The level of security can influence SNS members' decision on whether to disclose real information on platforms such as Facebook. Users of have expressed more trust in Facebook compared to


This article has examined the connection between virtual communities and social networking sites.

First, the concept of the Virtual community is defined as a new form of community that is formed through cyberspace technology. In this type of community, people can share experiences or goals using electronic communication as their main form of interaction (Dennis, Pootheri, & Natarajan, 1998). This virtual community differs from traditional communities in that there are no limitations on location, time, or size. Additionally, some virtual communities are formed based on functional connections rather than personal ones.

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