Monday, December 15, 2008

Facebook:Social Networking at Its Best

Since the invention of the Internet, it has undergone many changes. Before the Internet became as we know it today, it was strictly used to transfer information and rarely used for entertainment. Currently, in 2008 the World Wide Web is used to share information, watch videos, and be apart of a large social network. To further elevate the advancement of the World Wide Web, Tim O’Reilly coined the term “Web 2.0” in 2004. O’Reilly stated that, “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.” This means that Web 2.0 technology is hoping to change the way that we utilize the World Wide Web. One of the many popular features of Web 2.0 is social networking sites. Social networking sites are “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (boyd & Ellison 2007). One of the most popular social networking sites to date is Facebook. Facebook is a Web 2.0 medium that is a cultural phenomenon that has gained a lot of attention for its many functions and implications. is popular social networking site created on February 4th, 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard University when the site was created and initially only students at the school had access to the site. He created the site so that students on campus would be able to connect with one another. After noticing the popularity of the site he, with help from his friends and fellow classmate Eduardo Saverin and Dustin Moskovitz, expanded it to other prestigious schools such as Yale and Columbia. Before long students at other colleges and universities gained access. Shortly after, Facebook was opened to high school students and today Facebook is used by anyone with a valid email address as well as provide your name, age, sex as well as other self-identifying information. After you sign up for Facebook, each time after all you have to do is type in your email and password and you are in. According to a New York Times article because Facebook opened its doors to everyone the average users are adults and teens. Many people use Facebook to reconnect with old friends, share their lives with existing friends and to meet new people. Not only can those things be done, they are also able to upload photos, videos and experience cool applications. Facebook seems like another place to spend time with friends and in most cases family.

The popularity of Facebook also created a stir of controversy. The controversy came from other students at Harvard who claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea. In a Rolling Stone article, Divya Narendra, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss three fellow students said that they wanted Zuckerberg to work with them on a social networking site they were creating. They wanted him because they aware of Zuckerberg’s reputation as a premier programmer. Narendra and the Winklevoss brothers claimed that he agreed to write the code for their site, but whenever they asked him to produce what he was working on; he continued to give excuses. Soon after he gave them the brush off, Facebook launched. This caused them to believe that he was using them all that time, until he launched his own site. One other student, Aaron Greenspan claimed that he created a site also named Facebook before Zuckerberg and the others conceived their sites. Greenspan goes on to say that he confided in Zuckerberg about his plans and even asked him to work on it with him. These battles for Facebook have been taken to the courtroom, where no resolution has occurred. Even with these battles, it has not hindered the popularity of the website.

Although Facebook is easily accessible to almost everyone, there are still some divisions. Danah boyd noted some observations in the division of Facebook and Myspace users. Through her observation she noted that when both sites were created Facebook was used predominately by college students and Myspace high school students. Although Facebook eventually allowed high school users to use the site, they had to be invited by their college friends. Another division between the sites came with the fact that Myspace was looked at as dangerous and a breeding ground for sexual predators and Facebook was looked at as a safer environment. Boyd also looked at the difference in socioeconomic status. She observed that Myspace was mostly used by minority, specifically Latino teens, who did not value education and would be less likely to pursue higher education unlike Facebook which was used by mostly white, “good kids” who were involved in many school activities. She goes on to say that the sites have been used to create the “good” kid “bad” kid dynamic. Some teens that are using Myspace are not aware of Facebook’s existence, but those on Facebook, are aware of Myspace’s existence, often having a negative attitude towards it. They look down on it saying that it is “gaudy and immature,” unlike facebook that has a “clean and fresh” look. As she closes her observations, she states that she fears the Facebook and Myspace will be the new representation of the youth division in American society.

Despite the divide that Facebook may create the site has some great features to offer. When Facebook was first introduced they did not have the infamous mini feed and the applications that users are now able to add to their pages. The mini feed was added to the home pages of each Facebook user and it documents all of the things that each one of your friends is doing. It states who is no longer in a relationship, who is attending what party or program as well as who wrote on a friends wall. The mini feed has been a pest to some especially because in some ways in obliterates your privacy, by allowing your friends to tract your every move. Some of the uproar caused Zuckerberg to issue a letter of apology to users, assuring them that none of their original privacy settings were altered. Soon after, applications were added to the site. There are over thousands of applications currently that allows users to do all kinds of things such as: add top friends to their profiles, add an honesty box, add bible verses as well as scrabble, to name a few. These applications have enhanced our Facebook experience making it more enjoyable. Facebook allows users to upload an unlimited amount of photos to share with friends. Users can also post and tag others in personal notes that they create; these notes also allow friends to comment on the content. One of the features of Facebook that give meaning to the “networking” aspect of the site is the groups that you can join. Facebook has a lot of groups that anyone can join. Usually people join groups that are of interest to them. Each of these groups allow their members to post videos and photos that pertain to the group, post comments on the groups wall or pose a question that the members can answer. There is also the marketplace which allows users to sell and buy items. Through all these features that Facebook has to offer it shows how multifaceted it is and how this is the true definition of social networking.

Since Facebook has been created there have been observations to track personalities of some users. One observation was about narcissistic personalities on Facebook. One college professor decided to see if narcissism can be detected by looking at ones profile. She concluded that narcissist tend to be active users of the site and that their profiles tend to have pictures of them that would be considered “glamorous” and pictures of them surrounded by people of the opposite sex. One other thing that she noticed was those same narcissistic people had in their “about me” sections information that one would consider boasting about how successful or popular they are. Facebook allows its users to be the star of their own show and express themselves the way they see fit. Through my observation I noticed that there were many people with the infamous bathroom dorm room shots, usually displaying their body or a close up of their face. Even with these narcissistic personalities on Facebook it does not appear that the average user is that way.

The use of advertising on Facebook has also been a focus. If you are a user of the site than one should notice the advertisement banners that appears on the screen. According to the article, advertising on Facebook has not been successful. The reason why it has not been successful is because users of the site are not looking for things to purchase, they are more interested in socializing. The advertisements are a nuisance to users because it gets in the way of the objective of the site, which is to socialize. According to Facebook Ads anyone with an existing Facebook account can create an ad. When they create their ads they can set it to target certain people as well as set the amount of money they make each time someone clicks on it. It can also be customized to add a photo and to add text to their advertisement. The frequency asked questions section provides further detail about the ads such as the inability to remove ads from your page and by giving the ad a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” allows advertisers to record the success of their ads or ways that they can improve. One of the things that advertisers has to realize is that Facebook is a charge free site and it will only make money in advertisements if the users are willing to participate. If users are unhappy because they are unable to control what ads they see, Facebook ads will continue to be unsuccessful.

Social networking sites have been created to strengthen connections between people. They have helped further build upon those friend of a friend interactions and has helped us meet new people (Shirky, 2008). Not only is one interacting with others, but information is flowing between one another. Shirky mentions that these sites work in tandem as “amplifiers” and “filters.” The important things that everyone in your network knows about it will come to you and if it is not important enough to the network, then no one knows about it. Although we all share the social network, a division still exists. Bridging and bonding capital have been ways that social networks connect to one another. Bridging capital is the ideal that social networks would like to achieve, but this is hard when people prefer to communicate in a particular way.

Facebook is a great site that many people use. The site has been a social networking phenomenon since its debut. The ability to share “your world” with friends and family has been attracting new users each day. The popularity of this site has prompted others to take a look at it for them selves and experience what the buzz is about. Facebook affords its users the opportunity to connect in everyway possible through its many features and functions. Although this site has many positive aspects the negative aspects come in the form of privacy issues with the creation of the mini feed and the social divide that it causes with its equally popular counterpart Myspace. Facebook has also been cited for using specific targeting ads to its users. The advertisements have been a nuisance because it interferes with user activities. Even with these unfortunate incidents Facebook is growing rapidly as one of the top social networking sites on the Web. At the rate that it is growing, soon enough it will eclipse Myspace as the top social networking site.

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.

boyd, danah. 2007. "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace ."
Apophenia Blog Essay. June 24 .

Buffardi, Laura E. (2008). "Mirror, Mirror on the (Facebook) Wall" The Washington Post.

Lyons, Daniel. (2008). "Facebook's Roar Becomes a Meow; Putting ads in front of Facebook users is like hanging out a party interrupting conversations to hawk merchandise." Newsweek, Enterprise; Techtonic Shifts; Pg. E22 Vol. 152 No. 16.

Shirky, Clay. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations (Chapter 9). New York: Penguin.

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