Within recent years, internet users have taken to social networking for their various personal needs. Social networks have become much more prominent in our increasingly technological world and the number of users using them are increasing. In Karen Goldberg Goff’s article, “Social Networking Benefits Validated,” she argues that Social Networking has various benefits for its users that will be essential throughout life. While social networks may show signs of danger to some people, the benefits do outweigh the potential dangers. Not only do social networks provide an online community, they provide users with many benefits and skills they may then use in their lives.
Social networks provide great opportunities for socialization. As Monica Villa, founder of theonlinemom.com says, social networking “is allowing a lot of dialogue among people who may not otherwise have a chance for a lot of dialogue” (Goff). For those who want to be able to communicate with others, social networking is there to help them combat their shyness or there social isolationism by allowing them to connect with other people they can talk to. For those with disabilities, social networking is a useful means of communication to put their “personality at the forefront” while lessening the focus on the actual disability so that only the words, not the disability, are seen (Holmquist). In a report by the nonprofit child advocacy group Common Sense Media, “one in five teens said social media makes them feel more confident” (Wallace). It was also reported that more than twenty nine percent of teens report that social networking makes them less shy while twenty eight percent reported feeling more outgoing as a result of communicating through social networks.
Twenty percent of the teens reported feeling more confident through social networking (fifty three percent of teens identified themselves as somewhat shy or really shy in general). Not all youths happen to be socially adept and social network provide them with a great virtual place to make friends, speak to friends, and be as vocal as they truly want to be (Social Networking). As for the socialization with friends already made, over half of the teens (fifty two percent) in the report from Common Sense Media said social networking made their relationships better as opposed to the four percent who said that social networking has negatively affected their relationships (Wallace).
With social networks, users can extend friendships and meet others with similar interests. Lisa Tripp, an assistant professor at Florida State University, says that “technology, including YouTube, iPods and podcasting, creates avenues for extending one’s circle of friends, boosts self-directed learning and fosters independence” (Goff). While many people go on social networking sites to talk to friends they may already know, these sites can also be used to find like-minded people with similar hobbies and interests (Goff). Teens can use social networking to expand their social circle and meet people who they would enjoy speaking too. Before social networking was available to communicate with people across the world, a fan of a certain character or film or even an idea might find himself isolated if there was not a person with the similar interest. In today’s world with social networking being so popular, the once isolated kid can now find himself speaking to many other people just like him and may come to know that he can go out and seek peers to talk to (Goff).
In the study by Common Sense Media, sixty nine percent of the teens said that they were able to know the students at their school better through social networking sites and fifty seven percent of the teens reported that they used social networking sites to make new friends (Social Networking). With the interactions with other people, users using social networks can build up their self-confidence as they share pictures and statuses about themselves and in return receiving positive feedback from their peers (Wallace). A way that one’s social network can be especially useful in the long run is when finding a job. Deborah Leuchovious, coordinator of PACER’s TATRA Project has stated, “Drawing on one’s own personal networks is one of the most effective strategies for finding employment (Holmquist).
Through social networking, various helpful skills can be learned and practiced. The researchers from the Digital Youth Project, conducted at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, found that “the constant communication that social networking provides is encouraging useful skills” (Goff). The study looked at thousands of hours of online observation and concluded that new opportunities are created, as a result of social networking, for young people to deal with social norms, explore interests, work on ways to express themselves, and develop technical skills (Goff). For adolescents using social networking, they can develop skills needed to become independent, working adults in society as they will make a lot of decisions for themselves while online (Holmquist).
The majority of skills learned online would be social skills. These skills give teens the ability to start thinking before they say things and to think about who they are while becoming more independent so that they can form their own personal identity (Holmquist). Other important skills learned would be technological skills that will be “essential to the digital economy,” as Monica Villa has stated (Goff). Not only will the technological skills be useful when communicating, they will also be of use when making the transition from high school to college and when making the transition of being an adolescent to being a competent citizen.
By using social networking websites, one may have a place to go to for help when dealing with life’s problems. Although the place will be a virtual social network, there will still be a greater number of people who will actually show sympathy and provide help or guidance. Not all people will want to speak of personal problems verbally and social network provide a place to seek encouragement from fellow peers. An example of a situation where social networking helped to save a life happened recently when an eighteen year old posted on his Facebook page that he was thinking about jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York and New Jersey. After seeing his post, Port Authority officers contacted him and encouraged him to not go through with what he wanted to do and to go receive help (Wallace). Social networking can also have positive effects on one’s health. By providing an individual with a large social group, that individual will have an “improved life satisfaction, stroke recovery, memory retention, and an overall well-being” (Social Networking). The friends that one has on a social network also may serve as encouragement when dealing with health related issues such as exercise, dieting, and smoking (Social Networking).
There are opportunities to learn about events and even personal interests through social networking. For teens, social networking sites are second only to newspapers for their top news source and are able to spread information faster than any other source of media (Social Networking). Over fifty percent of the people in the study by Common Sense Media reported that they learned about breaking news from social media (Social Networking). Social networking even plays a large role in politics. Over a quarter of US voters that were younger than thirty reported to have obtained information about the 2008 Presidential campaign from social media (Social Networking).
Aside from just learning about events, people can learn about how they can be involved in the world around them. By becoming aware of the world around them, adolescents will also learn about how they may also become involved and what they can do for social good. Social media sites can empower individuals to create meaningful, positive change (Wallace). Groups like Grow Global Citizens use social networks to increase teens’ awareness of the world around them and to allow them to become more “innovative about how they can get involved” (Wallace). Social media strategist, Elena Sonnino has stated that now teens can do much more in regards to their involvement aside from things like book drives and canned food drives (Wallace).
When speaking of social networking, more concerns rather than benefits are mentioned. Since the benefits are not as mentioned as the possible dangers, people tend to believe that social networking may have harmful effects but this is not true. Most of what is told by news outlets is the negatives of social networking, such as how cyberbullying can turn tragic (Wallace). News outlets focus on the negatives without taking into account that “for every heartbreaking case of cyberbullying, there are many stories of teens using social media for good” (Wallace). Other negatives mentioned about social networking is that it causes teens to be lazy and that what they do online may not be safe. Mizuko Ito, from the Digital Youth Project, has stated that spending time online is essential for young people to acquire social and technical skills that are needed to be competent citizens in the digital age (Goff). Even though there may be risks that may be encountered online by some people, youth who engage in risky behaviors in other parts of their lives are the most at risk (Holmquist). Parents may also become involved with their kids’ social network. They can view their page at any time and even have their password to see what their kid is doing (Goff). To lessen the dangers of social networking even more, users also have the option to change their privacy settings so that certain details are hidden to others and even so that only people they know may contact them.
The benefits of social networking have shown themselves to be useful and helpful in the increasing digital world. Not only do users gain skills of socialization, they also learn more about themselves and the world around them. Social networks are a great place to seek friends with similar interests, news, and also help. Although there may be possible dangers with social networking, they may be taken care of and do not seem great enough compared to the upsides of social networking. The benefits that social networks bring will become useful for other aspects of life. Social networking has achieved a way for users to not only gain essential benefits and skills in their everyday lives, but also throughout their lives.
Goff, Karen Goldberg. “Social Networking Benefits Validated.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, 28 Jan. 2009. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. Holmquist, Julie. “Social Networking Sites: Consider the Benefits, Concerns for Your Teenager.” Impact Newsletter. Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, Fall 2009. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. “Social Networking.” ProCon. ProCon.org, 12 Dec. 2012. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. Wallace, Kelly. “The Upside of Selfies: Social Media Isn’t All Bad for Kids.” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
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