Thursday, October 13, 2011

The nature of Social Networking

            The development of social networking in the last few years has revolutionized our generation and our world today. Through some of the most popular sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, such technology has been incorporated into the daily lives of most people due to all communication and sharing left open for us (Anderson, 2010). We either connect through websites that bring together people with the same ideas or races, or through websites that allow a wide diversity of all kinds of people to communicate. These sites allow us to voice our opinions, interact with people we may or may not know, play games, etc. It is the most important part of our society, and with it comes its benefits, and its flaws.
Explanation and Technological Attributes
            Social networking deals with the grouping of individualized groups. They allow us to create a somewhat public profile within some kind of constrained system, create a list of other people and profiles that can share a connection, so both profiles can view and interact with the other (Boyd & Ellison 2007). Furthermore the ways we can interact with those other individuals brings forth technology of its own. These networks involve blogs, which are the online forms of diaries, allowing one individual to put up pictures, articles, entries, and any other form of entries for other people to view. Social network websites even let us put up links that connect one website to another. For example, we can take videos or photos from one website on our Facebook page for other viewers to click on and be led to the site of the media, or even share videos and pictures instantly through things like live chats. Even mobile applications help us to view and update our networks and profiles when we’re away from our computers (Boyd & Ellison 2007). In other words, social networks are so developed now at this point, that they have been able to expand from not only a single website, but also throughout the entire web and into our mobile devices.
Ethical/Social issues
            One of the major problems of social networking is how addictive it can be. With Facebook as an example, be it through actual computers or through cell phones, everyone is either constantly updating their personal statuses on their profiles, or skimming through all their friends’ profiles to stay in touch with what everyone is up to. Because it gives us such open access to many people’s profiles, this addiction can also lead social networks to become unhealthy. Studies have shown that people that overuse social networking sites (mostly teenagers) can become depressed; by always being aware of what your other contacts are doing allows for users to compare their lives and themselves to others (Slavik, 2010). As with other computer and phone associated activities and programs, being addicted to social networks causes us to focus on these websites more than our other daily activities; sometimes that even gets in the way of our person to person interactions (Berg, & Berquam, & Christoph 2007).
            These websites also open up the possibility of corruption. Some people use these websites to attack people (for example sexual predators), and to harm. Cyber bullying is a big part of our society today. There have been cases of one person or groups of people that use these networks to create groups to humiliate people they know, as an example (Ossian). It is up to the individual whether the person uses it for harmful or creative purposes, but either way the concept of social networking opens a path to accomplish either purpose.
Security Issues
            Because of its popularity, social networks like Facebook are big targets for hackers. People share so many photos and information on these sites that when the website becomes hacked, the people that have gained that prohibited access to the site’s “protected code” have access to everyone’s information (Collins, 2008). But both harmful and harmless security lapses can occur. The harmless ones involve viruses or worms that can potentially shut down the sight for some time, but personal information remains untouched. As for the harmful ones, not even a professional hacker is needed in all cases. Using Facebook as an example, third party platform applications (those applications that invite users to participate) are a main way that people can access the privacy of others (such as their information and pictures) (Collins, 2008).
            Another aspect to consider in all this is what happens with your information and statuses. Most people don’t read the terms of uses for the sites they join. It’s important to think about whom actually owns the information; do the creators of the site have the right to access or use the private information you enter? Furthermore, if someone deletes their profile on a site, the common misconception is that the profile will disappear and your information will be deleted. Some sites, however, do not do that; instead of permanently disappearing your information. Instead, they simply leave it inactive so that if a you ever change your mind you can activate your profile again easily; but this is no assurance that your information is secure (Ossian). In other words, no matter what people think you’re private information is never really one hundred percent safe.
Legal Venues
            With how easy it is to view and share media through social networks, legal problems can arise. For example, by using someone’s song, artwork, pictures, and other such things, without permission is a copyright infringement. Reversely, if someone, let’s say an artist, posts their work up and allows people to view it, if someone else can copy their work that too would be a copyright violation. In this case though, it’s the fault of the artist for making their work accessible, but in both these situations legal issues can arise (Ossian).
            If social networks can have so many potential downsides, what makes them so popular? Their major attribute are their worldwide expanse. They welcome in people from all over the world, and websites like Facebook and Twitter allow any person to join free of charge, so we as people can connect with anyone. These sites let us reconnect with people that live elsewhere, or simply people from our past (Boyd & Ellison 2007). They allow us to stay both updated with each other and with the world. In a matter of seconds, we are aware of the latest news cast, or we can subscribe to a group or persons profiles, and from there be updated with every post that group or individual makes, as soon as they make it. With Steve Jobs as an example, his death was known best through Facebook, with each person passing it down to the next (Anderson, 2010). Furthermore, both profitable and non-profitable organizations can promote themselves through such networks as well. Some companies put advertisements up, so that the millions of users can see their services and products (Ossian). Other groups can put up information about their causes. Through Facebook and Twitter, there exist many organizations that deal with helping children or animals in need; through these social networks they can then advocate what they’re fighting for, and gain countless amounts of supports and followers for what they’re fighting for.
            People interaction is also a big plus of websites like Facebook. Not only can we communicate through it with people we do know, but we can also meet new people. Social networking can be used as a means to find people that we have things in common with; in the time we live in now, many relationships bloom from an online meeting. Even outside of relationships people can promote themselves to be hired, or simply learn of other professionals that share their common interests (Anderson, 2010). For example, an aspiring writer can follow an author through twitter or Facebook to see what they’re thinking or what they’ve been doing to publish their new book.
            There have also been many examples of how these networks can serve as evidence. People that have committed some sort of crime, stealing something for example, sometimes commit the mistake of sharing it via social networks (Ossian). It can become a legal case if policemen or jurors are actually allowed to search through our profiles to find things to convict us for in a case, but if the person is guilty, the website is a plus because it helped bring justice. If any of this information leads them to judge someone though, a mistrial can occur and in this case could have an unjust ending.
            Social networking’s main purpose is to bring people together. It allows us to interact with everyone and anyone, and share aspects of ourselves and our lives with others. It can be perfect for advertising, advocating, sharing, interacting and communicating. On the other hand, though, it can be hazardous to those who are not cautious, or simply to those who do not follow the rules or lack common sense. But whether it can be dangerous or not, it encompasses our entire world today. Without such things as social networks, we wouldn’t be so aware, informed, interactive, connected, and social as we are now.

Anderson, A. (2010) What Is Social Networking? | (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
(Annotation: This article is written by an educated author, and it is an article, not just any other blog so only that one person can actually enter the text, making it a reliable source.)

Berg, J. & Berquam, L. & Christoph, K. (2007). Social Networking Technologies: A “Poke” for Campus Services (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE. (n.d.). EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 42, no. 2 (March/April 2007), pp. 32–44. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
        (Annotation: This full length web database was written by professors from a university, and Educause a prestigious organization, making the source reliable and educated.)

Boyd, D.M., & Ellison, N.B. (2007). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. (n.d.). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (1), article 11. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
        (Annotation: The authors of this journal entry are both educated professors at Universities, and the journal is rather recent.)

Collins, B. (2008). Privacy and Security Issues in Social Networking | Fast Company. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
        (Annotation: This website is based on a magazine of noticeable recognition, with copyrighted data, making it a valid source.)

Ossian, K. Search: The Law Firm of Miller Canfield. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
        (Annotation: The author is part of a law firm, in which providing true facts is an essential part of the job. The source is also a reliable one.)

Slavik, R. (2011). Excessive Facebook Use May Lead To Depression In Teens « CBS Minnesota. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
        (Annotation: This web article is a reliable source because it’s a website by a news company, and it was written within this year; it’s more recent in other words.)