Thesis: Social Media the Exponential Growth

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Social Media

The exponential growth of the Internet has created an astronomical number of options for communication, connectivity, entertainment and knowledge attainment, right at the fingertips of any connected individual. One of the most important functions of the internet is that it creates a virtual world where interaction is possible, be it to seek obscure messages or not so obscure pastime opportunities within the confines of ones own home. The stress of this function is that without leaving home an individual, theoretically could live nearly their entire life. This as a theory has both positive and negative outcomes, many of which are yet to be realized and/or studied from a sociological and/or psychological perspective.

The foundations of social media networking sites, like facebook, twitter, youtube and myspace are such that social networks are established and built on regardless of the proximity of the individual to other individuals in the network. Yet there is at least minimal evidence that a strong sense of camaraderie is shared by all and if one so chooses a social network that builds social capital can be created and built on. (Williams, Ducheneaut, Li, Zhang, Yee, & Nickell, 2006. pp. 338-339) Though there are currently only a few academic researchers seriously addressing the issue of social networking online the internet is fundamentally available 24-7, 365 to allow individuals to communicate across great divides from nearly anywhere in the world. These people might be people that one already knows or they can be total strangers that share interests. In many ways the internet and social networking can become virtual worlds, and online gamming among huge populations of people can also become virtual worlds for individuals. (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 521) Such connectivity sites, for both amusement and serious information gathering have become a huge part of the social stratus of the connected population, a source for the proliferation of both real and false information and have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for information gathering and sharing as well as a literal Pandora's box of real and possible problems.

Online games and social networking sites provide an opportunity that is not fully understood but gives a clear indication of the development of social capital as one so of its core and essential motives. Essentially, individuals can gain status; stay connected or get connected for very minimal outputs, be they in time and/or money. Despite the fact that some argue this type of social capital is not applicable to the real world, there is also a clear sense that development takes place within this realm that might never have taken place in the real world and for some this is a key to unlocking their real world social potential, while for others it becomes a surrogate social environment that is clear (bound by a mutually understood set of rules or standards) and easily navigated through. Ether way, real social capital is being developed as are real social problems and the potential for real life concerns.

One significant example is a recent trend of social media networks providing information for litigators in lawsuits. (Peterson, 2009, p.16) Another example of a problem associated with social networking sites (SNS) is the dissemination of inflammatory or even false information, such as in the case of public health threats, lascivious behaviors (Vance, Howe & Dellavalle, 2009) There have been real life cases in the last few years of individuals losing workers compensation and other injury claims, not being hired or being fired from jobs, losing real life friends or even obtaining false information about important health issues. (Kemp, 2009, p. 2) (Morozov, 2009)

For many the internet offers a completely untapped resource for seeking information about human behavior, as much as it offers a whole new way of behaving to those who surround themselves with its many functions. This work will address this very issue through discussing both the pros and cons of social media sites (SMS) and how they are and can effect the world in both positive and negative ways. Some educational specialists suggest that people with particular disorders that inhibit socialization in the real world can be seriously helped by interacting in virtual worlds. (Elder, Caterino, Chao, Shacknai & De Simone, 2006, p.635) In other words people with even the most mild social anxiety disorders or simple shyness can say and so things on SM sites that they would never previously have been able to do. Additionally individuals who have lost touch with one another due to distance, vocation and/or simply moving on in their lives can reconnect and potentially stay in touch regardless of the distance. Already close social networks can maintain even closer ties, sharing with one another issues and ideas that they might not have had the opportunity to share otherwise. One researcher in fact suggests that the hierarchy of SM sites demonstrates that already close groups often strengthen ties while moderately and weak social, vocational or educational groups often maintain distant connections seeking each other out on SMS when specific needs must be met or information disseminated or gathered. (Haythornthwaite, 2005, p. 125)

Defining SMS

One of the most comprehensive descriptions of a SMS or in this case an Social Networking Site can be found in Peterson's article on the use of SMS as a tool for litigators to gain information for trial:

Upon opening an account the SNS asks users to identify acquaintances who share profiles on the website. The term "friend" means someone who the user grants access to his/her SNS.9 "Friends" can include anyone: your college roommate, next-door neighbor, boss, a childhood friend or even a stranger.10 A "friend request" is notification that someone wants access to your page.11 The creator of the page can grant or deny this request ("friend confirmation") and has the option to remove the "friend" at a later time.12 Once given "friend" status, the "friends" can access each other's profile to observe and post messages on the page. Each SNS user will have a list of "friends" that is publicly displayed. By searching a user's "friend" list, other users can locate mutual acquaintances and become their "friend," as well. Seeing a user's "friend" list provides a valuable insight into the user's personality. Many sites allow "friends" to post public messages on the profile. The "wall" is the space on the user's profile page where "friends" can post messages for the user and everyone else who has access to the page.13 The level of visibility of a user's profile varies by design, and the user's choice of display settings. If the page is public, the information contained therein is available for anyone to view and download. (Peterson, 2009, p. 16)

This format briefly describes social networking sites twitter, facebook and myspace to name a few while sites like Youtube have more media/video focus, all the sites basically do the same thing, they link people in more or less open formats to information about themselves and then allow others to obtain as much of that information as the format and/or the user allows. Peterson also notes that the most popular SMS site is Facebook, with staggering statistics that go as follows:

The most popular SNS is currently Facebook with nearly 1.2 billion visits as of January 2009.14 The general public can see a glimpse of a user's home page but will not be permitted to post anything on the site. While Facebook initially started as a SNS for a few Ivy League schools, it has expanded to anyone with a valid email address.15 Facebook is especially popular among college students.16 Yet, in 2009, membership by users 35-54 grew at 276.4%, 55 years and older grew by 194%.17 The 25- to 34-year-old demographic doubles every six months. (Peterson, 2009, p. 17)

The demographics of just this single, but widely used SMS is foundational to the understanding of this social phenomena as a real and valid area of inquiry for researchers in nearly every aspect of the social sciences. Human interactions, no matter how they play out are constant and voluminous and for some people can represent a large aspect of their social development. Social networking is an absolute must and the speed with which we live our lives, the fractured nature of families, the near necessity of often frequent mobilization all contribute to the popularity of SMS formats as a way to enhance the manner in which we live our lives and communicate with one another.

Social Skills Debate

Social skills would seem to be contrary to some, with regard to virtual interaction, as the guidelines for virtual interaction are clearly very different, more or less so depending on the media utilized, than those in the real world. The result of this assumption, frequently made by those who have never been "in" such and environment or had a candid conversation or interaction with another human being, in such an environment, is to exclude virtual worlds as a legitimate place to interact with anyone, and therefore consider them anything but social.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Social Media the Exponential Growth.  (2009, December 17).  Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/social-media-exponential-growth/88653

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"Social Media the Exponential Growth."  Essaytown.com.  December 17, 2009.  Accessed December 10, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/social-media-exponential-growth/88653.