Today, 1.5 billion people belong to an online social network, which is one out of every nine people in the world. If you are a part of this phenomenon, just how much does it affect your daily life? People join these sites for a wide variety of reasons. With just a few clicks you can speak to friends and family that may be millions of miles away; or check up on your favorite musicians latest updates. No matter what the reason, there is no denying that social networks have become a major part of society, in the work place, at home, and around the world. Many social networking sites are made for a specific group of people, such as Facebook for college students, or MySpace for music and party people. However, they all have a common structure. Once you sign up for a particular site, you will be asked a number of questions such as your name, age, location, interests, marital status, and possibly a small section to write an “about me.” Many sites also encourage uploading a profile picture, and some allow you to add a “skin” or some type of multimedia to your profile.
Creating a profile on a social network allows you to define yourself however you wish to be seen. You are able to share your views, and express your interests. Many people feel a sense of independence and self esteem from using these sites. Some people may even create a “second” life and get lost in an online world, completely losing track of reality. People become addicted to social networking, losing sleep over these sites, ignoring their work duties, or even their loved ones to update a status or check the latest “trending topics.” According to affilatenetworking.com, as of April 5th 2012, the top five social networking sites are: Facebook, with an estimated 800 million users; Twitter, with an estimated 175 million users; Linkedin, with over 115 million users; Google Plus, with an estimated 90 million users; and Pintrest, which is a brand new social networking site, but is already in the top 30 most visited websites in the USA. With these sites having so many active users, it makes sense that they are prime places to advertise. These sites are users of “targeted marketing”, meaning that they use information provided by you, to decide which advertisements to show. Facebook for example, uses things you “like” to determine what ads to show in the sidebar. So if you liked a Facebook page for Thai food, the ad shown on your homepage may be a Thai restaurant that is close to your provided location. Along with your likes, Facebook uses your location, sexuality, and relationship status as means to advertise. Companies are not the only ones using the growing popularity of social networks to their advantage; celebrities and artists do as well. They do not normally place ads on the page, but rather make their own Facebook or Twitter for publicity and to share their work. Lady Gaga, for example, has 45,633,442 Facebook fans and 16,862,231 Twitter followers.
She is one of the more popular celebrities in social media, but definitely not the only one. Among the rather interesting list of users are: Barack Obama, Kanye West, Megan Fox, and even Oprah Winfrey. By using these sites, public figures such as the aforementioned can communicate with their fans, and share photos and videos with them. They can also promote their latest campaign, music, or movie release. If a celebrity wants to promote a social cause, social media is also a helpful tool to gain supporters. Even though social media has many great characteristics and outcomes, there are also some drawbacks and concerns. For example, privacy issues. Facebook and MySpace make it very easy to retrieve personal information and harm someone. Phishing and scams occur often, by scammers who try to steal your personal information for fraud or identity theft. There are also websites that are made to look exactly like your favorite social networking site to steal your password. Once they have the password, they are able use it to send out spam, and even viruses, from your account, or destroy your profile. The most venerable victims of social media dangers are children. Predators can pose as children with the same likes and interests as the child, and trick that child into telling them almost anything, including where they live.
The safety of a child is at risk when they are on any social networking site. Predators are the biggest danger for children, but there are also scams that affect them. There are hackers or scammers that target children to use their identity to open a credit card, since the credit of a child is always in good condition. The problems with social media do not end with people that we don’t know. They also cause problems with the people that are close to us. According to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial lawyers, one in five divorces in the United States involve Facebook, and 80 percent of divorce lawyers have reported a spike in the number of cases that use social media for evidence of cheating (Gardner, David). The websites offer an outside source of communication that never existed in the past, allowing people to reconnect with past lovers or meet new ones. They also provide a distraction that takes away from the time that intimate couples are supposed to share. Many employers also use social networks in their hiring process.
If a person seeking a job has certain information, comments, or pictures on their page, it can comprise the decision of the employer. The Washington Post released an article stating that there are now background checking services that exclusively run social media background checks for companies all over the country (Duran). A reference to drugs or even inappropriate jokes in a status can completely change a company’s decision. There are also cases that take social media past the hiring process, and use it as a cause to fire someone that is already working for them. In Pennsylvania, a teacher posted a picture of herself dressed as a pirate, holding a plastic cup, with the caption under the picture reading “drunken pirate.” She was then fired for promoting underage drinking. Whether or not these charges were fair, the facts cannot be changed; social media is public. It’s something that anyone can see, including employers, children, students, and parents (Duran). However, social media does not have to be feared or avoided. The more aware users are to the potential dangers, the better. As long as they are used correctly, social networking sites are a great way to interact. Avoiding them would just keep you from communicating and interacting in our society. They provide many useful tools, and an enjoyable way to keep in touch.
A social networking site is an online community in which people can connect to other with similar interests. Since their start in 1995 with Classmates.com, social networking sites have grown immensely to include huge websites such as Facebook, YouTube, hi5, and orkut.com (scribd.com). Through these sites, people can communicate, meet new friends, and share information and common values. Businesses can communicate with employees, advertise new products, speak to consumers about current products, and even get ideas for new or improved products. Social networks have changed the way we live today. They provide a means of being socially involved that never existed, and there is no telling how far they will take us, how long they will be around, or how much more they will grow. As a young adult, I can say that social media affects my life on a daily basis, as it does millions of others’. We are living in an era of the Internet, and there is no turning back now.