Essay on Social Networking Sites

Essay on Social Networking Sites Social networking sites peaked the year 2007. These sites encouraged online social connections. Early sites such as SixDegrees. com and Friendster allowed people to manage a list of friends. One drawback to these sites was that they did not offer users the ability to publish content like blogs. Social networking sites begin with a group of founders sending out messages to friends to join the network. In turn the friends send out messages to their friends, and the network grows. When members join the network, they create a profile.

Depending on the site, users can customize their profile to reflect their interests. They also begin to have contact with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Founded in 2002, Friendster used the model of friends inviting friends to join in order to grow its network. It quickly signed on millions of users. Unfortunately, as the site grew larger, technical issues surfaced. Painfully slow servers made it difficult for users to move around the site. Additionally, management enforced strict policies on fake profiles. These false profiles, or “fakesters,” as they were known, were deleted by the site.

This approach turned off users. Eventually, Friendster began to lose members in the United States. Fellow networking site SixDegrees. com closed its doors after the dot-com bust in 2000. Within a few years, these early social networking sites found their popularity declining. At the same time, a new social networking site called MySpace was beginning to take off. THE RISE OF MYSPACE MySpace brought together the social features of networking sites and the publishing capabilities of blogs. The combination of the two tools struck a home run with teens. Young people were looking for a more social way to blog.

MySpace provided the solution. In 2003 Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe launched MySpace in Santa Monica, California. As music fans, the pair designed the site as a place to promote local music acts. They also wanted to be able to connect with other fans and friends. On MySpace, users created a Web page with a personal profile. Then they invited other users to become their friends. According to DeWolfe, the bands were a great marketing tool in the beginning. He said: “All these creative people became ambassadors for MySpace by using us as their de facto promotional platform.

People like to talk about music, so the bands set up a natural environment to communicate. “1 Anderson and DeWolfe were determined to keep MySpace an open site. Anyone could join the community, browse profiles, and post whatever they wanted. User control was one of their founding principles. It also made initial financing hard to find. According to Anderson: “We’d get calls from investor types who wanted to meet us. They would say ‘Your site isn’t professional. Why do you let users control the pages? They’re so ugly! ‘”2 In the meantime MySpace continued to sign people up. Teens and young adults loved the site.

They flocked to create their own profiles. The ability to customize pages, load music, and share videos added to the MySpace appeal. Unlike other early social networking sites, MySpace gave users a media-rich experience. Users could express themselves on their Web page by adding music and video clips. At the same time, they could socialize with friends. MySpace made social contact easier with tools such as e-mail, comment posts, chat rooms, buddy lists, discussion boards, and instant messaging. MySpace brought together the ability to express oneself and to socialize in one place.

The timing was perfect. Over the next two years, MySpace grew at a tremendous pace. The site’s success brought attention from investors. Rupert Murdoch, famous for his media empire, wanted to buy MySpace. Murdoch had interests in television, film, newspapers, publishing, and the Internet. In 2005 Murdoch purchased MySpace for an amazing $580 million. By early 2008 MySpace had grown to a mind-blowing 110 million active users. It signed an average of thirty thousand people up every day. One in four Americans was on MySpace. The Web site had become the giant among social networking sites.

It was the most trafficked site on the Internet. MySpace’s influence traveled outside of the United States. The company built a local presence in over twenty international territories. MySpace could be found in places such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and Latin America. In a few short years, MySpace had become a worldwide cultural phenomenon. SOCIAL NETWORKING BEYOND MYSPACE The success of MySpace in the social networking arena spurred the development and redesign of many other online social networks. Some sites appealed to a general audience.

Others, such as Black Planet, LinkedIn, and MyChurch, sought to serve a niche market. Facebook was one site that emerged as an alternative to MySpace. In February 2004 Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook. The site began as a closed network for college students. Closed networks only allow users to join if they meet certain criteria. In contrast, sites such as MySpace and Friendster were open social networking sites. Anyone could sign up for an account. Open and closed social networks have advantages and disadvantages. Open networks foster interaction between adults and teens.

Parents can check up on their teen’s profile and decide if they are comfortable with their child’s online image. On the other hand, open access means that profiles are completely public and can attract unwanted attention. Closed networks are generally smaller. As such, there is a greater chance a user will know other members both online and offline. But a closed network blocks parents from reading their teen or college student’s profile. Being closed also limits a social network’s ability to grow and attract new users. As a closed college network, Facebook grew by adding more colleges to its network.

By the end of 2004, Facebook had almost 1 million active users. As Facebook’s popularity grew, it expanded beyond colleges to high school and international school users. At this point, however, the site was still restricted to a limited pool of student users. In 2006 Facebook made a pivotal decision. It opened the network to the general public, expanding beyond its original student base. By May 2008 Facebook boasted over 70 million active users. At that time, it was the second-most trafficked social networking site behind MySpace and the sixth-most trafficked site on the Web.

As an alternative to MySpace, Facebook’s social network gained popularity with business professionals and colleagues. Facebook’s purpose was to help users connect online with people that they already knew offline. Unlike the wild-looking pages found on MySpace, Facebook promoted a clean, orderly online experience. VIDEO- AND PHOTO-SHARING SITES Online social networking evolved into a full multimedia experience with the arrival of video- and photo-sharing Web sites. Users could upload visual content to share with friends and other users. Photo-sharing sites such as Flickr enabled users to transfer digital photos online to share with others.

Users decided whether to share their photos publicly or limit access to private groups. Users could also use the site’s features to organize and store pictures and video. One of the most popular video-sharing Web sites was YouTube. The site, founded in 2005, used Adobe Flash technology to display clips from movies and television, music videos, and video blogs. Users could upload, share, and view video clip topics from the latest movies to funny moments captured on film. Not everyone wanted to create a profile, write a blog, or upload pictures and video.

Other social networking tools allowed these users to participate online. E-mails sent messages to a friend’s electronic mailbox. Instant messaging was a real-time conversation between two people online at the same time. Comment posting allowed users to interact and talk about a friend’s blog, profile, or pictures. Even online gaming was a form of social networking, allowing players to meet other people with similar interests online. WHY IS ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKING SO POPULAR? The popularity of online social networking has prompted researchers to explore the similarities between online social networks and tribal societies.

According to Lance Strate, a communications professor at Fordham University, social networks appeal to people because they feel more like talking than writing. “Orality is the base of all human experience,” said Strate. “We evolved with speech. We didn’t evolve with writing. “3 Irwin Chen, an instructor at Parsons design school, is developing a new course to explore oral culture online. He agrees with Strate. “Orality is participatory, interactive, communal and focused on the present,” he says. “The Web is all of these things. “4 Michael Wesch teaches cultural anthropology at Kansas State University.

He studied how people form social relationships while living with a tribe in Papua New Guinea. He compared the tribe to online social networking. “In tribal cultures, your identity is completely wrapped up in the question of how people know you,” he said. “When you look at Facebook, you can see the same pattern at work: people projecting their identities by demonstrating their relationships to each other. You define yourself in terms of who your friends are. “5 Despite the connections between social networks and tribal cultures, significant differences exist.

In tribal societies relationships form through face-to-face contact. Social networks allow users to hide behind a computer screen. Tribal societies embrace formal rituals. Social networks value a casual approach to relationships. Millions of people across the world have joined online social networks. Perhaps their popularity stems from our innate desire to be part of a community. According to Strate, social networking “fulfills our need to be recognized as human beings, and as members of a community. We all want to be told: You exist. “6

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