Social networks emerged during the late 1970s and began to become popular in early 1980swith introduction of computer as a necessity to every individual in the modern world. The early community focused on establishment of a way in which people could interact with each other cheaply. Some of the social sites that came into existence in late 70s include usernet system which was established in 1979 by Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) which were the first sites that enabled individuals to log on and interact with each other.
Some individuals such as students adopted a different approach by establishing a way of linking people via email address. This attracted other professionals and many more websites such as ARPANET, Usenet, linkedln amongst many others which were established with different aims. Online services such as Prodigy and CompuServe (which was the first online service to use the chat program) came into existence in early 80s.They were the first attempt by corporate to access internet. In 1985 an online service called Genie was introduced and it contained majority of the features used in the modern social network sites. Social network sites began to be used as sites for making new friends and sharing similar interests in 1990s with the introduction of Internet relay Chat and Instant messaging.
The early social networks include the dating sites, forums (1980s), six degrees (1997), AsianAvenue ( 1997-2001),liveJournal (1999)and World of Warcraft (2000s) which is the most advanced social network in which players can interact in game world, in forums and in community sites The ultimate (Website development Team,2010). Major advances in the social networking field have occurred in the 21st century with the emergence of Friendster (2002), Hi5(2003), LinkedIn(2003), MySpace(2003) which emerged to be the most popular in by 2006, and finally facebook (2004) which is the most commonly used site by individuals of all age groups and occupations.
Types of Social networks
Many individuals link social networking to the most popular and largest general use networking sites such as face book and MySpace. But the scope of social networking is more apparent with emergence of several social networks set up with different missions and visions. The social networks are categorized into professional, informational, educational, academic, hobbies and news related sites.
Informational social networks are an important solution to a variety of everyday problems. A good example is that of a retiree looking for the best way to invest. He/she is able to access countless forums, blogs and websites with detailed information and advice written by professionals as well meet with different people who have similar problems thus chatting and obtaining a solution. Informational websites are usually used by business enterprises like banks, manufacturers, retailers and other organizations to interact with their customers (Fornahl et al 70). A good example of this type of social network is Ryze which was founded by Adrian Scotts in 2001 as a business oriented site. It gives Businessmen a chance to expand their business operating scope by networking with new people and by joining different business groups containing industries and other businesses.
Professional social networks are helpful in advancement of one’s career. These sites enable professionals to be involved in the organization’s online community in which customers post their questions and they are answered accordingly. Educational social networks enable students to collaborate with each other in academic projects, research activities and interact with teachers and professors via forums and blogs (Fornahl et al 71). Good examples of these are eLearners for degree students and The Student Room for the UK based students. Similar to this network is the academic networks such as ARPANET which was originally used by U.S, Department of Defense for switching networks but was later incorporated in the scientific community thus giving the scientists a chance to interact.
Hobbies social networks are the mostly used by a large population. Some individuals prefer to conduct research as well as meet the individuals with similar interests in these sites. This is therefore the heart of social networks since majority of individuals prefer sharing their hobbies with online friends. A good example of this is face book, MySpace, spout film lovers networks and automotive forums among many others (Castells 389). News social networks form another common group of network sites. They usually focus in publishing community content and hence inform each other on the latest News in the world through commentaries, news stories and the groups in the sites. These sites require careful monitoring for them to generate interesting information. Failure of an organized monitoring system may lead to conversion of this site into a promotional madhouse which is filled with self-promotion advertisements.
Backgrounds, age and diversity of social network users
Social networks bring together individuals with different backgrounds. With regard to race and ethnicity those individuals originating form majority of the Muslim countries have a lower tendency of using the hobbies related social sites such as MySpace and face book. Those originating from Western countries have a high tendency of using the social sites since this is the easy way for them to interact with their friends and also due to the fact that they have adequate access to computer technology and the internet. Natives of Africa and other third world countries are likely to use the mobile phone internet services and instant messaging since internet and the computer technology are only available to a few individuals.
A recent research in America has shown that social network sites users range from the age of twelve and above. The study showed that these sites are not limited to the youths only. It showed that about 78% of teenagers, 77% of the individuals between 18 and 24 years and 75% of individuals between 25 and 34 years have opened their own personal profile pages (Nestmann & Hurrelmann 356). Research has also shown that use of different social network sites depends on gender and age of the user. The following analysis was carried out of for sites namely; face book, Myspace, Linkedln and Flickr. It showed that more than 120 million network profiles are in use with each individual accessing an average of two to three social network sites. Women and teenagers between the age of 14 and 24 usually use facebook and Myspace while majority of men and individuals between the age of 25 and 34 years frequently access Linkedln and Flickr. Majority of individuals using social networks are between 25 and 34 years since they enjoy the diversity of the various social network sites. They can carry out their businesses, carry out online academic and professional research as well as socialize with new friends whom they share similar interests.
Social networks have diversified to women and men, young people and adults, idlers and businessmen and people from different continents. With the introduction of social network technologies, majority of its users were men but with continued increase in social network sites many women are joining these sites to conduct businesses, socialize, market their products, communicate with families, relatives and friends and to develop online relationships (Dijk, 156). Some sites like face book, MySpace and many others are usually international sites hence enabling people from different countries and with different cultural backgrounds to intermingle. This has enabled some communities to do away with some of the traditional beliefs which are passed by time and those that are like slavery to the people following them. Through these sites there is diversification of knowledge which is enhanced by the professional, academic, educational and informational types of social networks. Some social sites especially those of sharing hobbies are used by both the youths and adults. They indicate the user’s age hence one is able to choose friends depending on the age group and also their likes, dislikes and interests.
Types of social networking: Texting, face- to- face, cell phones, social applications
Face-to-face is one way of social networking which have been used effectively for a long period of time. Use of online social networks has adversely deteriorated this form of communication since majority of individuals prefer relating electronically. It is evident that individuals prefer discussing their irresponsible behaviors such as drinking, smoking and going for unconstructive outings with their online friends since it is difficult to do it face-to- face. Face-to- face conversations are important since they help in building self esteem, eliminate boredom, one can learn to judge from observing the facial expression of others, eliminates loneliness and eventually reduces depression. This is the only way of socialization in which one can effectively confide in others.
Texting is a common way of social networking. Children between the age of 8 and 18 years frequently use texting since their parents approve of it and do not impose restrictions. It is also a cheap way of passing information from one person to another hence used for socialization and business purposes. Some email sites have also availed the service of sending messages via SMS thus making it affordable to many.
Cell phones have contributed a lot in social networking. Despite the fact that online communication is cheaper, use of mobile phone has not lost value due to the one-on-one interaction. They enable one to have a closer relationship with the family and friends. A research carried out has shown that cell phone users have extra 15% closer family members who they can freely discuss sensitive and important issues with. They also have an extra 25% of network friends other than their family members with whom they can interact with freely. In general, cell phone users have 12% social networks above those who do not utilize this form of networking (Castells 383). .
Social networks have been utilized in a variety of social applications which include government applications, business applications, dating applications and educational applications (Vega-Redondo 8). Government applications enable the leaders to receive the public’s opinions as well as update the public on their progress in country building. Business applications enable entrepreneurs to expand their bases and gain new clients. Dating applications are used in search for both short-term and long-term relationships. Educational applications are specifically used for learning purposes and the parents are free to post any behavior problems on this site. Professionals can use this site or join medical applications which are more educational.
Benefits of social Networks
Social networks help in bridging geographical gaps by staying connected. Prior to emergence of this technology, staying connected with families and friends through mailing and phone calls was occasional, inefficient and expensive. International distances have been reduced through a simple search for friends and browsing their pages as well as sending them messages by a click of the button. The expensive means of communication like phone calls have been replaced by the online chat option which is efficient and serves the same purpose. One can also leave a message through instant messaging either by phone or by online messages.
Social networks enable one to meet new people. This is because one who has an account can invite new friends to be on the friends’ list. Dijk, 169asserts that information concerning people’s age, dating status, location, favorite movies and music ,their interests and many others are laid out in the open to enable one to send a friend request to those individuals he/she thinks are compatible with his/her likes and dislikes. One’s pictures can be displayed on the wall thus creating a chance for people to invite each other for dates and may lead to long lasting intimate relationship whose final result is marriage. Chat rooms have options like “Poker”, “Gamers” and “Asian cuties” which create a chance for one to mingle with a certain group of people who come into these chat rooms with similar reasons.
Social networks are also used in conducting business. It has made communication in business inside offices, within the community, national and international to be easier through messaging and passing information within seconds from one person to another. Due to increased globalization, many business enterprises employ individuals from different countries. It would be too expensive for employees to move back and fourth to negotiate terms. This has been made easy by business social networks since companies ensure that each employee in different countries have access to the internet and thus can communicate with anyone through simple instant messages and get an immediate response. Some networks like Craig’s list and eBay have enabled its users to buy and sell different products online thus making trade easy and extensive. They also help in building credibility since one is able to develop maximum customer confidence by communicating with them both personally and on professional level (Fornahl et al 72).
Dangers of social networks
Social networks are a great source of loneliness, depression and isolation. Although instant messaging and online communication strengthens families and friends’ connection as well as expansion of social networks, it has led to people socializing online instead of socializing with the people in the real world. Browsing on peoples pages and communicating with virtual friends who share one’s likes and dislikes disconnects an individual from the real world of reality. One therefore isolates him/herself from the local social events, time and dedication to the family and real friends thus increasing loneliness and depression.
They are time consuming. Most of the people in the society especially the youths join the social network sites for sole purpose of socializing and having fun. Social network sites are likely to lead to addiction thus affecting performance in school as well as in businesses (Nestmann & Hurrelmann 364). In fact, some individuals have lost their jobs due to wastage of time in the social sites thus making it hard for them to meet the set targets in good time. Social sites have accelerated the rate of online scams and harassment. This has led to insecurity both in business and personal level. Although majority of the sites have taken precaution measures of keeping harassment, online scams, cyber-stalking and identity theft at bay, much time spent online by the social network sites users enables them to come up with new tricks of carrying out these illegal online activities.
Social networks have led do adverse negative effects to the cultural and moral background of the people (Nestmann & Hurrelmann 364). Individuals share their cultural and moral beliefs with their friends in different countries and hence may lead to adoption of some of the negative morals which are against one’s cultural background and belief. This has brought about the existing conflicts between the older generations and the youngsters in the communities. Some have become rebellious and also adopted unacceptable behaviors which have in turn lead to some people being termed as outcasts in the society they live in.
Social networks have both beneficial and destructive impacts on the society. It has eased communication both locally and internationally and has also saved on cost of passing information from one person to another. Family ties have been strengthened, new friends have been created, businesses have expanded and education has been added value by these sites. It is therefore important for individuals to embrace them to eliminate communication barrier.