Social Networking Sites

There are over 200 million Facebook users, 106 million Myspace users, Twitter has 6 million users and during the month of February this year they experienced a mammoth growth of 1,382 percent which makes it the fastest growing social network site around. Let’s face it, social networking sites have taken over the world. These are no mere trends as some call them. Myspace which was the first of the big three to be launched when it came to be in August 2003, now it has been nearly six years since then and the Internet community only continues to grow more popular. It is impossible to say that social networking sites have not had a positive impact on people’s lives and on society. Sure there are negative aspects as well, but I feel that the good outweighs the bad. The first and most obvious positive quality is that it can connect friends, often times ones that haven’t seen each other for quite some time. Facebook, the largest of the big three, was originally started as a college site, hence its name which refers to the paper face books depicting members of a campus community that some colleges give to incoming students, faculty, and staff as a way to get to know other people on campus. This made it easier for students to keep in contact with high school friends and to meet new friends at the college they were attending. Soon enough Facebook spread to high schools and then the rest of the world. Quickly it became a tool for people both young and old to connect with others they have met and for some creepy people they have not. Accusations that these sites are merely tools for young high school students to keep track of their popularity are simply false. In fact, the largest growing demographic for Facebook has been the thirty-five to fifty-five age group, where there has been a 276 percent growth in the past six months. Facebook and friends have a number of unconventional uses as well. In December 2008 the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory deemed Facebook valid protocol to serve court notices to defendants for those who do not answer their phones or check their e-mail. Facebook also has become a force of democracy in parts of the world where people’s freedom is severely restricted. In Syria, the government has now officially banned the site due to its open-nature and its allowance to let citizens openly criticize the government. In Iran, it was banned because it was "helping organize opposition movements." And that is all beside the point that Facebook employs more than 700 people and generates some 300 million dollars in revenue each year with all signs pointing to that figure increasing. The major downsides to Facebook are perhaps its slight abuse of privacy with the Facebook beacon which kept track of how to effectively advertise to members, and that crappy poke feature. Twitter hasn’t been around for very long but it has already become a hit around the web. It has become a legitimate source of information to the world. From politicians to bands, it has become an effective source of getting a message across. It is worth mentioning that even during Obama’s state of the Union Address some of our fine representatives were twittering about how nice it was not to see Dick Cheney or about their favorite Supreme Court Justice. In an age where print media continues to become less viable, it has become more important than ever to look at the web for information, and Twitter is paving the way for this to happen. Myspace is the one of the big three that I have the toughest time defending. It has become just a bad version of Facebook, more or less. It has a host of problems such as fake profiles and sexual abuse. Myspace is still a good place for music, though. Bands can easily get their music out to the public via Myspace’s music interface. Getting the word out has become the major function of many of these sites. In the natural evolution of news these sites are not just something to write off as childish, but as a tool we can use to better inform ourselves and to meet new acquaintances and old ones. They have lasted the better part of the decade so I have no doubt that these sites will continue to grow in the future.