Online social networking has grown rapidly, and now surpasses e-mail usage worldwide. Popular social networking sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter offer novel utilities that are increasingly useful for this generation. Distance communication has come a long way, from letters, newspapers, radio, telephones, and the modern e-mail. Historians are labeling this period of time as the Age of Information for a reason; sites like these mentioned are connecting people in ways never before imagined. However, all new technologies suffer criticism, and some claim that social networking sites such as MySpace make younger users vulnerable to Internet predators. The problem with these accusations is that they are false and slow technology progression. Besides, parents are accountable for their children, and even so, MySpace is restricted to children under the age of 14. Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace are revolutionary and have countless applications in the modern world.
Prior to social networking, SMS, or short message service, had a similar explosion in popularity, and is now used more than cellphones. An entrepreneur, Dr. Ron Gdovic, published an article at the University of Phoenix College of Information Systems and Technology titled “Can Society Truly Communicate in 140 Characters or Less?”, which questions the future of communication and summarizes how Freidhelm Hildebrandt allotted the 160 character text space used for SMS, and how Twitter, a web-based texting service, had been limited to 140 characters. Ron summarizes the popularity of Twitter in his article when he exclaims “while it took Google nearly a decade to become a verb, Twitter’s tweet became a common verb in the American language practically overnight.” This social networking website is free and used for an array of practical functions like breaking news or updates to family and friends. Consider that the White House, CNN, American Red Cross, and the neighbor across the street all have Twitter. Users can subscribe to each other, to receive their Tweets, a real-time text feed. For example, during the 2008 elections, Barrack Obama used Twitter to promote his presidential campaign. Twitter has at least fifty million tweets every day! In fact, there is so much activity that my non-profit organization, Confere Inservitus, is able to use Twitter APIs (a complicated programming term) to pull targeted information from billions of pages of text. Confere Inservitus is an organization dedicated to combating human trafficking, and uses this Twitter data to locate victims and find traffickers. Similarly, another non-profit organization, the American Red Cross uses Twitter to provide on the ground real time updates during natural disasters and other emergencies. Twitter is similar to SMS, yet provides a practical utility with internationally available text feeds in an instant.
Another social networking site, LinkedIn, incorporates many useful widgets and connects professionals in a business web application. Similar to other social networking sites, each user creates a profile that publicly displays the information they have chosen to share, like education and employment. These are easy to set with LinkedIn’s simple and clean user interface; users can even import resumes directly to their profile. Likewise, once a user has completed their profile, they may export it as a resume in fax, print, or e-mail. To understand LinkedIn’s practicality, notice that all Fortune 500 executives have an account, as well as 60 million more people in 200 different countries, including myself. LinkedIn doesn’t serve only as a reference sheet, but has many dynamic applications underneath its surface. Users can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with other qualified professionals needed to work with to accomplish goals or establish careers. Also, the application integrates other apps like Twitter and WordPress (an online publishing platform). Still more, connected users can use the interface to work on projects and solve problems. Another feature, LinkedIn Answers, is similar to popular services like Yahoo! Answers and Ask.com, but provides reliable information and excludes anonymity. LinkedIn has helped me and millions of other professionals connect and collaborate in ways never before possible.
Next, the most popular social networking site, MySpace, has a place for just about anybody-family and friends, musicians, or organizations. This service is also free and easy to sign-up, providing the users with a customizable profile page in which they can share personal information, media, and photos. MySpace users can comment on each others’ photos and profiles, send e-mails, upload videos, and write blogs that are displayed directly on their profile. Each user has a network of friends, which are easy to find using name, e-mail, school, or a useful application, the ‘Buddyfinder’, which references your information to search for possible matches. As people are always moving, taking new careers, or going to college, its easy to lose contact with old friends, but MySpace makes it simple to stay in touch. There is shared content like bulletins and events that make sharing upcoming activities painless. Simply, MySpace can be a number of things to many people, whether for media sharing, staying in touch, or blogging.
In conclusion, social networking on the Internet is rapidly changing the way people communicate day-to-day. Popular sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace provide users with practical utilities and allow them to connect with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. These services are free and have simple user interfaces that allow ease of use and quick correspondence, often real time updates. Even more, cell phones and laptops can be synced to allow mobile access to all of these social networking sites. We live in the Informational Age and social networking sites are broadening our concept of how communication systems may work in the future.