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There are a number of social networking sites on the Internet that allow users to communicate with relatives, friends, and colleagues to keep in touch and share experiences. They include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn. There has been a surge in the number of users of these social networking sites in the US and other countries in the world. Presently, the number of Facebook users all over the globe is approximately 800 million, with the US leading number of 155 million and with other states from Latin America and Europe following by the number of users (Lawrence). The major activities that users have reported to engage on Facebook are development of a profile regarding backgrounds, communication with friends, and sharing of thoughts, pictures, and links. Advertisers have taken a further step and posted their goods and links to their websites on the site to enable users to log onto them. Politicians have also used the site during campaigns. For instance, during the 2008 elections in the US, Facebook and Twitter were one of the ways through which presidential aspirants reached their supporters (Memon N. and Alhaji).
According to Khan and Olive in their book “Revolution in the Communication Industry”, this revolutionhas provided a lot of benefits to users of social networks. The major beneficiaries of the sites have observed these advantages, and it has been necessary to bring these benefits to attention. This paper provides an account of these benefits based on evidence provided by users of social networking sites and some academic journals.
Communication is one way in which people relate to each other. There are a number of ways of communication. These include such methods as face-to-face communication, telephone conversation, and so on. However, users of social networking sites that have made their lives more comfortable have brought certain benefits in the field of communication.
Users of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites have reported that they have been able to use these sites to communicate with their friends who they cannot meet face-to-face and chat. They have also reported that they have been able to connect with their friends and family members who can be available only online and improve their family ties. This can be accomplished under the most convenient conditions for users, for example, at home, on a bus or in the workplace. This form of communication has been also reported to be less destructive, and congestion in communication has been drastically reduced. It has also enabled users to communicate privately and at a lower cost when they communicate through online methods (Ozok). They have also reported that the use of Facebook and other social networking sites has enabled them to connect with their families making less effort in comparison to the use of telephones or telegraphs.
In his book “Online Communities and Social Computing”, Ozok (2011) mentions that it is possible to display a person’s creative impressions on social networking sites and allow their target audiences to see them. For example, Graphic designers are able to display some of their artworks on this site to let potential clients know their expertise and order their services. The process of communication between designers and their potential clients has been improved tremendously with the help of social networking sites. This has allowed them to market their expertise at a lower cost. Today, one does not need to pay extra money for advertising his/her works. The only thing that is needed is the registered account. Everybody can upload the pictures or the graphics and millions of people will see this.
The use of social networks allows people to develop groups within a site. People with common interests are able to create groups on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace to keep abreast of every new idea in their fields and areas of specialization at a low cost. It can enable them to exchange information without the need to arrange meetings to discuss issues regarding their work. They are also able to share information with professionals from different parts of the world, thus promoting generation of ideas, which has assisted them in improving their knowledge in their areas of specialization. Moreover, online communication is likely to help those people who may feel shy or not confident during face-to-face communication. Furthermore, people can keep themselves informed with regard to a certain innovation in their field, for example, the appearance of a new product, and enable their colleagues to know about innovations (Tonta). This can be done by posting videos or images of products to a group on the social networking site. Consequently, members of the group will be able to get the information and take the required steps such as buying the product or getting the latest technology.
Social networking sites have been used to provide solutions for people who have certain life issues such as job search, dating, marriage partners, searching for a place to live, and even finding the best specialized hospitals to cure certain diseases. When experts in a required field post their locations, contacts, and services on social networks, subscribers of these sites become aware of their services and take the required steps to get their assistance. For instance, a person may get information concerning a certain job vacancy when they log on to a social networking site displaying that advertisement. This enables the person to avoid traveling from their location to learn information from an organization directly.
What is more, students have been able to use social networking sites to discuss matters regarding their educational process and lessons and to talk about class matters such as assignments, lecture times, and examination times. Also, they have been able to assist other students who do not have direct access to class facilities, for example, by posting notes on these sites to enable all students to have access to them.
In his book “Technological Convergence and Social Networks in Information”, Tonta (2010) mentions thatchildren who use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace have shown improved learning, writing, and conflict resolution methods; they have been able to express themselves and meet a number of students from different parts of the world. These results have been achieved by posting their thoughts on these sites and discussing certain issues, or even showing their attitudes towards certain topical issues in their lives. They can also use these sites beneficially by searching for information regarding the best courses and colleges to go to or connect with students from other parts of the world.
Undoubtedly, social networking sites have numerous disadvantages; many critics have termed them as an upcoming phonographic site, a morally rotten platform. Some religious representatives believe that such sites are demonic. Moreover, some Far East countries, for example, North Korea, have also blocked such sites from their citizens by claiming that they are a form of neocolonialism imposed by the West. However, despite such criticisms of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, it is possible to use them in a more beneficial way in the life of an ordinary user or a student. Due to the fact that the current generation of students is raised in the era when the Internet and interactive media are of paramount importance, it is necessary to ensure that they use these networks constructively to improve their lives and make the best of them.
It is arguable that Facebook and other social networking sites have been more beneficial to their users; it is also necessary to consider all the disadvantages associated with them. The advantages include allowing people to establish connections between each other, a creative way of expression through a new medium, enabling people with common interests to come together, solving life issues for certain users and reduced risks of health problems by being part of a social network among others (Olive).
Social networking sites can be regarded as ways in which teenagers can maintain relationships with each other, as well as improve their social lives when they are online. The use of interactive technology is also able to improve self-directed learning process for students by searching for necessary information online. It has also enabled teenagers to acquire social skills that allow them to communicate effectively and form connections in both online and offline modes.