Click above link for an interesting discussion on the sociological, psychological and economic effects of social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace.
Humans are social beings. They need to feel connected and to socialize with one another. I have recently (last week) joined Facebook, Delicious, Digg and Twitter. It is quite a powerful tool in that interaction and collaboration can be realized with current and past friends. Facebook enables the user to keep track of the daily happenings of his/her friends whom maybe geographically dispersed.
From a sociological perspective, social networking sites improve social capital which is particularly useful in striking up a conversation or perhaps exchanging ideas from a network of people. A Michigan State University study has found it beneficial for individuals with low self-esteem and low life satisfaction. A counterpoint is that bullying and gossip-spreading is made much easier with this tool. With access to so many people this can act as a magnifier for this negative behavior.
From a psychological perspective, there are detracters who believe that the ever-increasing popularity of such sites may have a negative effect on face-to-face communications. Social networking sites enable the user to meet others based on common interests. Is this psychologically beneficial? That depends on one’s viewpoint. Having a network of people with varied interests would be more difficult to achieve than a network with similar interests.
From an economic perspective, it makes it easy economically (websites are free – therefore barriers of entry are very low) by effort (one-click away) to communicate with friends and acquaitances. From an advertising perspective, it enables the availablility of very targeted campaigns similar to the tactics employed by google with keywords.
What are your thoughts on the ever-growing number of social networking sites?