Social Networking Phenomenon

Introduction

Social networking is a pervasive phenomenon. Millions of Internet users around the globe have at least one social network profile. It has become popular and convenient to use social networks for pleasure and business. With 65 percent of social network users being young, social networking is truly an essential component of youths’ communication realities (Whittaker & Wagner 2).

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Recent studies have shown that more young people want to stay connected outside of their homes. They need to have social networking outlets beyond schools and workplaces. They realize that social networking helps them to build and maintain effective social relationships. They cannot miss a single chance to monitor the ways, in which their relationships are developing and changing. Certainly, as more youngsters choose social networking for communication, the society starts to question the usefulness and safety of social networks.

The negative and positive effects of social networking have been extensively documented. Apparently, social networking sites enable their users to communicate and socialize, learn and work. Social networking sites create an atmosphere of friendship and social connectedness, enhance people’s learning experiences, and improve the quality of communication in organizations, although the safety and security of the social networking practices should be constantly monitored. This persuasive essay is created for a large audience, which has little knowledge of the social networking benefits and believes in the negative implications of social networking for users.

Main Body

Social networking creates an atmosphere of social connectedness and friendship. For thousands of young and old people, social networks have already become the only way to maintain close relationships with their relatives and friends. According to Whittaker and Wagner, online networks create an environment, in which young users approach each other on equal grounds (2). Apart from proving a convenient space for meeting interesting people, social networks reduce the social boundaries and empower young people of different backgrounds to communicate with each other more openly and effectively.

It is wrong to believe that social networking is all about publicity. The most popular social networks, including Facebook and MySpace, have public and private areas. Users are free to choose the most convenient mode of communication. In public social networking spaces, users share their opinions and learn to build strong arguments. At the same time, private spaces facilitate identity exploration and satisfy users’ need for intimacy and self-analysis (Tynes 579). In public and private social networking spaces, users reconsider and recreate their identities (Tynes 579).

They learn to be more flexible and develop better social and communication skills. At the same time, social networks often encourage their users to make offline connections (Whittaker & Wagner 2). The number of real-life friendships, marriages, and acquaintances that grew with the help of social networking is difficult to estimate. More and more people manage to solve their loneliness problems through social networks. They become more self-confident and aware of their personal value.

Social networks make it easier to build a good social capital, which further improves users’ social health and even helps lower the rates of crime (Whittaker & Wagner 3). Social networks may become a starting point in a wonderful relationship or simply enable offline friends and relatives to continue their communications online. Regardless of the way social networks are used, they greatly contribute to the development of close social ties.

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Social networking sites enhance individuals’ learning experiences. It has become quite popular among higher education institutions to incorporate the elements of social networking into their curriculum and learning processes. The benefits of social networking become particularly obvious in the context of distance education. In 2006-2007, “the 9.7% growth rate in the number of college and university students enrolled in at least one online class significantly exceeded the 1.5% growth rate in the overall higher education student population during the same period” (Brady, Holcomb & Smith 151).

Through social networking sites, educators and professors working in distance education courses can develop and manage effective communities of practice (Brady, Holcomb & Smith 151). The use of social networking sites in distance education helps maintain the spirit of community and collaboration among students and among them and their educators. Social networking sites make the process of information sharing easier and faster.

The social networking technologies represent a convenient discussion forum for students and, at the same time, leave enough room for intimacy and individual conversations (Brady, Holcomb & Smith 151). Yet, even students who live and study on campus can greatly benefit from using the social networking sites. It is not difficult to see that social networks help members of various academic programs to keep in touch (Bosch 193). Social networks allow providing social and emotional support to students.

For example, students of the Cape Town University used Facebook to create a student community that provided emotional support to the relatives and friends of a student, who had died in a car accident (Bosch 193). Lecturers find it more convenient to monitor their students’ progress through social networks, especially when these students do not attend lectures (Bosch 195).

Students welcome the use of social networking sites for academic purposes. They feel more confident, when supported by their and other students’ online presence. Very often, students say that their social networking friends help them to find the most essential learning material online (Bosch 196). They also enjoy using Facebook and other social networks to keep in touch with their friends during University vacations (Bosch 196).

Social networking sites improve the quality of communication in organizations. It is not a secret that many companies want to go global. They seek greater presence in the international markets but cannot afford losing their connections with employees, suppliers, and customers. Social networking can help improve and maintain effective communication at all levels of organizations’ performance. This is particularly relevant in large and multinational corporations. Through social networks, employees and managers create an easy-to-manage list of contact details to maintain strong professional ties with their colleagues, co-workers, business partners, and customers (Zyl 9).

Social networking sites allow making friendship recommendations, further expanding the company’s outreach. The social and business connections, which employees and managers develop during their career, can be further used for recommendations and introductions (Zyl 10). At the same time, social networks create a wonderful space for collective decision making. In other words, social networking sites bring employees and managers together when their organizations face problems.

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Once solved, social network users can share their achievements with other workers and colleagues. It is through social networks that workers can integrate, aggregate, and manage the information and knowledge that span across many different communication tools (Zyl 12). Social networks make business communication more synchronous – employees and managers who are using social networks keep fulfilling their primary obligations without being distracted by telephone calls or emails (Zyl 13).

Certainly, not everyone believes that social networking is a positive phenomenon. Social networking raises numerous safety and security concerns. First, social networks are recognized as a favorable ground for sexual harassment and solicitation (Ybarra & Mitchell e350). Second, social networks are believed to promote privacy intrusions and bullying (Livingstone and Brake 80). The use of social networks by children and adults is accompanied by the growing incidence of physical and emotional abuse.

At least 15% of youths report having been targeted by sexual solicitation through social networking sites (Ybarra & Mitchell e355). No less than 32.5% of young social network users confess having been harassed or abused through aggressive comments and rumors (Ybarra & Mitchell e355). Among those, who use social networking sites on a regular basis, more than half saw online pornography and at least one-third witnessed rapist and discriminative content (Livingstone & Brake 80). Every third social network user received bullying comments, and almost one-tenth went to meet an online acquaintance offline (Livingstone & Brake 81).

Still, the problem of online risks in social networking is exaggerated. Despite the presence of online solicitation risks, users are less likely to face the problem in social networks than in chat rooms or instant messaging systems (Ybarra & Mitchell e355). Moreover, in most cases, it is youths who are not careful in their online communications with peers and adults (Livingstone & Brake 81).

Even the safest vehicle can result in a crash, if not used properly. Social networks have more benefits than drawbacks. What is needed is to educate the youth about the fundamental principles of privacy, security, and communication online. Social networks can greatly benefit the entire humanity, if everyone follows the rules of the online communication game.

Conclusion

Social networking sites benefit the society. They create an atmosphere of friendship and social connectedness, enhance people’s learning experiences, and improve the quality of communication in organizations. Social networks help users maintain their social ties and enrich their social capital. Social networking sites provide remarkable opportunities for knowledge sharing and learning. In distance and on-campus learning, social networks represent a wonderful discussion forum for students and their teachers.

The results of online communications make professors more responsive to students’ needs. In large organizations, social networks help maintain connectivity and effective communications across all layers of the corporate structure. Recommendations and introductions become easier, when made with the help of social networks. Employees can use social networks to make collective decisions and share their achievements. The privacy and security risks of social networking should not be ignored.

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However, in most cases, it is due to unprofessionalism and poor awareness that social network users are exposed to unwanted sexual solicitation, bullying, and abuse. Therefore, all social network users should be educated about the risks of social networking and ways to avoid them. Social network managers and users should undertake a concerted effort to teach other users of the main principles of online behavior. Education professionals should make social network education part of their curricula. This is the only way to reduce the incidence of unwanted behaviors in social networks and make them serve the communication and interaction needs of the community.

Works Cited

Bosch, Tanja E. “Using Online Social Networking for Teaching and Learning: Facebook Use at the University of Cape Town.” Communicatio, 35.2 (2009): 185-200. Print.

Brady, Kevin P., Lori B. Holcomb, and Bethany V. Smith. “The Use of Alternative Social Networking Sites in Higher Educational Settings: A Case Study of the E-Learning Benefits of Ning in Education.” Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9.2 (2010): 151-170. Print.

Livingstone, Sonia and David R. Brake. “On the Rapid Rise of Social Networking Sites: New Findings and Policy Implications.” Children & Society, 24.1 (2010): 75-83. Print.

Tynes, Brendesha M. “Internet Safety Gone Wild? Sacrificing the Educational and Psychosocial Benefits of Online Social Environments.” Journal of Adolescent Research, 22.6 (2007): 575-584. Print.

Whittaker, Anne and Geraldine Wagner. “Point: Social Networking Websites Provide a Healthy Way to Improve Friendships.” Points of View: Social Networking Sites (2011): 2. Print.

Ybarra, Michele L. & Kimberly J. Mitchell. “How Risky Are Social Networking Sites? A Comparison of Places Online Where Youth Sexual Solicitation and Harassment Occurs.” Pediatrics, 121(2008): e350-e357. Print.

Zyl, Anria S. “The Impact of Social Networking 2.0 on Organizations.” The Electronic Library, 27.6 (2009): 906-918. Print.

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