Welcome to Social Networking in Education
This page was initially created by the following students in EPS 415: Information Technology Ethics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
We recognize the ongoing evolution of social networking technologies as well as the field of education and welcome further contributions to this resource.
Social networking websites have become increasingly integrated into the way many people today act, think, and relate to each other. Social networking has a multitude of implications for the field of education and these impact students, educators, administrators, and parents alike. We will address the challenges and opportunities offered by these sites and analyze how social networking sites can be utilized to further students' academic and personal development, particularly in the context of an ever-changing globalized society.
Opportunities and Challenges of Social Networking Sites
In order to provide context for our argument, we will begin by addressing the general opportunities and challenges that social networking sites presbbgent to users. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but to illuminate the key positive and negative aspects of these sites which can be tied into education and learning.
Positive Aspects of Social Networking Edit
Connection and Access
The primary function of social networking sites is to provide ways for an individual to make connections with others. Some common connections include (but are by no means limited to):
- Sharing interests and goals with current friends
- Maintaining contact with friends in different cities, states, and even countries.
- Finding old friends and former classmates
- Furthering professional development
- Debating or advocating for political, environmental, ethical, and religious issues
Different social networking sites fill one or more niches to promote connection. For example, Linkedin promotes professional development and SparkPeople creates a community dedicated to healthy living; furthermore, a site like Ning allows members to create user-designed social networks based on varying topics of interest. These sites can be a way for individuals to connect with people that they may not have had access to before. In the context of education, social networking sites offer a student the opportunity to network with other students, educators, administrators, alumni, both within and outside his current institution. Further Skype can be used for online classes.
Social networking sites have created a new social dimension where individuals can develop increased levels of awareness. Interacting with these sites, students can become more globally knowledgeable, tech-savvy, and even more self aware. The Digital Youth Project study, conducted at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, found that "that the digital world is creating new opportunities for young people to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills and work on new forms of self-expression." 
Young people in particular may also benefit from social networking databases such as YouTube. A Beacon article analyzing both the research of the Digital Youth Project and psychology professor Dr. Brendesha M. Tynes focuses on the potential benefits to increased access to different media outlets, including social networking. "Educationally, the strongest point made by [Tynes] is that users of the social networks are more globally aware since they have immediate access to global issues, and the chance to read about global events from people in those settings," said Dr. Jane Elmes-Crahall, professor of communication studies. "That means at least on the surface, today's media-savvy young people know world events. And, emotionally, they can be moved to be caring."
Although some argue that students tend to ignore hard-hitting news in favor of the superficial, students are inevitably, if passively, exposed to these issues via social networking. For example, a politically disinterested student may not have any level of interest in or knowledge of the recent elections in Iran, but chances are he's noticed a few of his Twitter friends now have green overlays over their personal avatars. If he has the impulse to Google "green overlay Twitter", he'll find a website that explains that the overlays are meant to support democracy in the election, as well as a link to more information about what is happening currently in Iran. For a student in a rural district, having access to social networking sites with millions of users from around the world can help her access a diversity of ideas and opinions that she may have never known existed
In addition, by creating a public image, students are ex posed to the challenge of defining themselves. With most sites, users must create a profile which exposes various parts of their personal identity: likes and dislikes, their membership in different groups, ideas they support, etc. Sites are visible, in varying degrees, to peers, parents, teachers, future employers, and the public at large. Students who are conscious of this exposure are able to evaluate which information they feel is appropriate to reveal. At the same time, most social networking profiles allow for easy editing, allowing a student the flexibility to reevaluate her priorities and understand that her interests and goals are not necessarily permanent reflections of her being.
Publicity and Advertising
Some social networking sites allow their members to publicize events, movements, or products. When an individual creates a notice on Facebook for an upcoming Halloween party, he is advertising. The same applies to the small business which pays $5 for 10,000 hits for an ad promoting their grand opening, or a larger corporation paying more for a greater number of hits. Social networking sites provide an advertising medium for students, extracurricular clubs, Greek chapters, sports teams, musicians, and large-scale companies alike. Advertising and publicity help generate revenue for the site itself, while also enabling users to efficiently 'get the word out'.
There are significant benefits to advertising on social networking sites. Everyone has equal access to some forms of publicity on the site; Many sites, including Facebook and MySpace, allow individuals to create events or fan pages (promoting causes, musicians, artists, politicians, etc.) for free. Even for paid publicity, it is often significantly cheaper to employ online social networking strategies than to pay for advertising. For example, Facebook's advertises itself as a way for companies to 'reach the exact audience [they] want through targeted advertising.Using information a user provides on his profiles, advertisers provide 'personalized' ads on his profile page.
It’s Who You Know
Lisa Tripp, an assistant professor at Florida State University, says technology creates avenues for extending one's circle of friends, boosts self-directed learning and fosters independence. "Certain technical skills in the coming years are not going to be just about consuming media," she says. "It is also going to be about producing media. It is not just about writing a blog, but also how to leave comments that say something. Learning to communicate like this is contributing to the general circulation of culture."
Being able to use social networking sites can be invaluable in the workplace; students with this background knowledge will have a greater ability to network professionally and personally. In the following IBM commercial, the employee boasts that he has 862 friends, but his manager needs a team with a specific skill set. Without being able to utilize social networking websites to network in an effective way to connect with relevant individuals, he cannot get ahead in the workplace. Networking has always been a cornerstone of most professions (It's not what you know, it's who you know), but it is becoming more important to know how to use these connections to meet professional and personal goals.
Challenges of Social Networking Sites Edit
While we support social networking sites as valid resources for students, educators and administrators, we must acknowledge that social networking, as is the case with most technology, comes as a mixed blessing. Being cognizant of the challenges social networking sites raise is important in evaluating how best to educate students to use sites appropriately.
Facebook the archetypal social networking website, is now open to anyone with an email address and draws people of every age, ethnicity, income level, and academic background. According to the company's website, as of 2009, there are over 200 million individuals with Facebook accounts, and half log in to the site at least once a day. With so many users, it is no surprise that the primary concerns of many users relate to privacy issues. In a January 2008 interview with Barbara Walters Mark Zuckerberg (one of the creators of Facebook) stated, “the money to pay the four hundred Facebook employees has to come from somewhere.” He was defending the use personal information presented by members of Facebook for data analysis, marketing, and creating endorsement ads. On personal profiles, Facebook users voluntarily list personal details from the more mundane (favorite TV shows) to the more (address, phone number, etc.). How private is the information that users place on sites like Facebook? Who has access to the information and what is it used for?  Whose role is it- parent, student, educator, website developer- to ensure an individual understands his right to privacy and exercises it accordingly?
The dark side of social media is forcing many school districts to keep Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at arm’s length while they consider strategies on how to best use social networks in classes while keeping students safe. But local education officials are also aware that the same students are probably using social media at home or on their smartphones while out with friends.
Although much of the information individuals supply on social networking sites is voluntary, users (especially younger students) are increasingly more comfortable with revealing a great deal of personal information online. Emma Justice discussed the potential problem of overexposure in her article about Facebook 'suicide'- disabling accounts permanently- commenting, "The fact that you can't see or hear other people makes it easier to reveal yourself in a way you might not be comfortable with. You become less conscious of the individuals involved (including yourself), less inhibited, less embarrassed and less concerned about how you will be evaluated." Many found the only way to regain their sense of having a truly private life was to log off and disconnect entirely.
Thanks to social networking sites, an individual may now be able to boast that her friends number in the hundreds. But the quality and integrity of these friendships is not always what society is used to. Social networking sites have spawned articlesaddressing the different opportunities for online friendship and the value of these friendships. A 2009 advertising campaign from Burger King offered Facebook users a free hamburger if they 'unfriended' ten of the users on their friends list (the unlucky 'nonfriends' were unceremoniously sent an email that informed them they'd been removed so that their former friend could get a free lunch). When a student has 200+ online friends, what is the value of each individual friendship?
In more extreme cases, instances of cyber-bullying by other students (and even parents) have drawn media attention to the problems of instantaneous and/or anonymous communication . Most parents are concerned about online predators; what many don't realize is how readily social networking sites allow for cyber-stalking and unwanted communication to occur. Voluntarily-provided data is not always 100% honest and reliable, and social networking sites do not verify personal details (age, location, etc.) of their members. While sites provide an opportunity for individuals to present a positive and accurate self image, there is equal potential to abuse this openness
In the end, some even posit that having a large number of friends/acquaintances on social networking sites may do more harm than good. Patricia Rogers, a counselor and fellow of the BACP, worries, "It could be incredibly damaging for the ego to realize that you haven't got as many friends as you thought you had, or that those friends aren't particularly meaningful. Comparing yourself with others, a big preoccupation on sites such as Facebook, can be damaging psychologically." Having hundreds of relatively superficial , and occasionally completely disingenuous, friendships is becoming the norm for social networkers. On developing an online presence, Phillip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy (BACP), remarked, "This can lead to disappointment once people realize how insignificant their online existence really is. Not only are online friends not necessarily real friends, they can turn out to be people you don't wish to know at all."
Taking Up Time
There is little question that as more opportunities to connect (more applications, more niche sites) increase, social networking is taking up more of our time. According to Facebook, users spend approximately 5 billion minutes a day on the site, although a survey by the British price-comparison Web site uSwitch.com found that some Brits spend more than 10 hours a week on social-networking sites, the equivalent of 24 days a year. Logging on daily is not compulsory, but some studies suggest that these sites may be addictive.
If an individual makes the choice, as some have, to disconnect and deactivate his accounts, actually getting rid of personal information will prove harder than it seems. Many sites, like Facebook, keep posted information in their database and users find that their digital footprint lingers longer than their actual presence.
Issues of honesty aside, when individuals cannot communicate in person, misunderstandings can occur much more frequently. Whereas interacting face-to-face allows individuals to perceive physical clues like tone, inflection, body language, in an online environment, these are lacking. As Carolyn Axtell points out, "You can write something flippantly, which others take seriously, or come across as aggressive when that's not your intention at all." Communicating across cultures and language barriers can prove next to impossible without physical interaction, and important messages may be improperly relayed. The disparity in communication styles can exacerbate relationship tensions between parents and young adults, the latter being so attuned to virtual communication that reaching them in-person proves difficult.
The Effects of Social Networking on Informal and Formal Education Edit
Keeping both the challenges and opportunities of social networking sites in mind, we turn our attention to how these relate to the formal and informal educational spaces that students inhabit.
Knowledge: Type and Access Edit
CollaborationWith the unprecedented possibility to interact and connect on a non-physical level, individuals now have the ability to collaborate and develop without worrying about physical boundaries of time or space. This newly enabled collaborative knowledge is challenging the authoritarian model of knowledge. While knowledge used to be the domain of experts, it has now been handed over to anyone with access to the Internet. The increase in participation in the creation of knowledge has had positive impacts on formal and
informal education. For instance, the publishing world has traditionally been exclusive and slow. Decisions of relevance, verifiability and authenticity had been previously left in the hands of a select group of “experts.” As a result, many individuals with valuable contributions have been … ‘“shut out” of the traditional publishing world, like talented K-12 teachers, community college instructors, scientists and engineers out in industry, and the world majority who do not read and write English." (Baraniuk 2008). In addition, with traditional publishing, topics are frequently out of date by the time they reach their target audience. This is especially true in rapidly evolving disciplines such as science and technology. Not only are traditional paper books slow to produce, they are costly due to the raw materials consumed in their production.
In Challenges and Opportunities for the Open Education Movement: A Connexions Case Study, Baraniuk (2008) highlights the opportunities presented by the Connexions website. This site allows individuals to upload self-produced modules of information, and allows the public to access these modules. Connexions is a pertinent example of both social networking and its final product- community generated information. The site increases a learner’s access to valuable knowledge, knowledge that may have otherwise been inaccessible to them.
Access to Creating and Distributing Knowledge
The Connexions model decreases the lag time in the publishing of information, thus keeping it current. The cost of access is limited to the cost of Internet. Internet access, while still a legitimate challenge for some, is much less restrictive than costly textbooks. In formal educational institutes, such as a public middle school for example, teachers often lack adequate textbooks for students to each have their own copy (Baraniuk 2008). ]By eliminating the high overhead costs associated with traditional publishing, it is plausible that the cost of formal education should decrease. Socially networked self-educating communities, as well as inquisitive individuals, also have in creased access to information through sites such as Connexions.
The authoritarian model of knowledge relies on input from an admittedly narrow slice of the population. Authority has traditionally been held by affluent, educated, male, Caucasians, the cliché of powerful, old, white men. Socially networked sites diversify the voice of knowledge. Minorities, who have not traditionally had the social, political or family connections to break into the publishing world, can now easily have their voice heard. Anyone can start a blog, or contribute to educational websites such as Connexions. The anonymity associated with many social networking sites also lends individuals the ability not to be preemptively judged based on factors such as race.
Quality Control EditThe production of collaborative knowledge is not without challenges. Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur, contends that “… history has proven that the crowd is not often very wise,” embracing unwise ideas like “slavery, infanticide, George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, Britney Spears.”’ While the last two items may be more subjective, the idea that popular does not always equal correct, is valid. Keen notes that, “…it’s easy for misinformation and rumors to proliferate in cyberspace.” (Kakutani 2007) Indeed, as Professor Nicholas Burbules points out, self-educating communities tend to be highly self-referential (Burbules 2000). It is therefore easy for these communities to become echo-chambers, be it for truth, or the perpetuation of misinformation. Filtering for reliable, quality information is challenging when the quantity of information is vast. New York times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani, who reviewed The Cult of the Amateur, concedes that “… the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (which relies upon volunteer editors and contributors) gets way more traffic than the Web site run by Encyclopedia Britannica (which relies upon experts and scholars), even though the interactive format employed by Wikipedia opens it to postings that are inaccurate, unverified, even downright fraudulent” (Kakutani 2007). What Kakutani does not mention is that Encyclopedia Britannica is not free, and users must pay to subscribe to the service. He drives his point of unreliability home by citing an example where a Wikipedia contributor who had edited thousands of articles was a 24-year-old man, and not the professor he claimed. While the level of deception associated with the man’s fraudulent identity is unsettling, does it really hamper his ability to contribute valuable, accurate knowledge? It could be argued that deception regarding parts of one’s identity happens frequently in the social realm.
The need for quality control filters has been recognized almost from the inception of Web 2.0. Connexions, with its eye on providing quality educational information, has aimed to address the issue head on. Connexions has developed what it refers to as quality lenses. “Each lens has a different focus. Examples include lenses controlled by traditional editorial boards, professional societies, or informal groups of colleagues as well as automated lenses based on popularity, the amount of (re)use, the number of incoming links, or other metrics." (Baraniuk 2007).
Subjective and False Knowledge
In forums such as blogs, its important for the reader to remain aware of the subjective nature of the content. In forums such as Wikipedia, the community is self-correcting. It does not have a hard and fast quality filter, but aims to regulate it’s content through a code of conduct. Wikipedia requests the following in the formation of its entries; “Avoid conflicts of interest, personal attacks and sweeping generalizations. Find consensus, avoid edit wars, follow the three-revert rule, and remember that there are 2,925,880 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss. Act in good faith, never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open and welcoming.” (Wikipedia) While these codes of conduct do not ensure complete accuracy, the social experiment of sharing and generating knowledge seems to be going surprising well. It is fair to say that students, both formal and informal, may find it a challenge to decipher what information on social networking sites is legitimate. Students may believe that because it is on the Internet, it is valid. This is especially challenging with younger students, though interestingly enough, an Israeli study found that occasionally, younger users were more inclined to be the ones leaking deceptive information. (Caspi, Gorsky). Cornell University is one of many educational institutes that provide its students with an overview of criteria that helps determine a website’s validity. More institutions need to incorporate this type of digital literacy education if their students are to accurately interpret and critique online information.
Specifically in reference to an informal social networking setting, the issue of legitimate information is a particularly hot topic. Due to the anonymity afforded by many social networking sites, there is a lack of personal accountability for one’s actions. There are opportunities for personal deception that cannot be accomplished in face-to-face interaction. “Since it's easier to have contact [online], people may develop trust more rapidly than they would in the off-line world," says Ron Teixeira, executive director of the U.S.-based National Cyber Security Alliance. "The more connected people are, the better chance fraudsters have of reaching out" (Lunau, 2008). The odd fact is that most users of these social networking sites are fully aware that many of the people, or “friends”, are being dishonest in their personal disclosure. An online survey conducted in November of 2007 yielded that 61% of the population answered “no” when asked “Do you think Myspace and Facebook users' profiles are honest reflections of who they are?” (Wheaton, 2007).
Social networking redefines opportunities for plagiarism. With the vast array of resources available, and the challenge of discerning legitimate information, students have more opportunity than ever to slid e down the slippery slope of plagiarism. Students have access to so many online opinions; the options to pass off thoughts as one’s own are endless. It is impossible for a teacher to be current on every blog and idea out there for the grabbing. In addition, while it is not plagiarism in the strict sense of the word, informal sources of information such as blogs do not guarantee any level of accurate referencing. Ultimately, a student may intentionally or unintentionally use information that has less than clear origins. “Jonathan Bailey, the author of Plagiarism Today, a blog dedicated to the issue of plagiarism online, said this type of cut-and-paste plagiarism is widespread. (Welch 2006)
Self Education and Anonymity
Social networking has led to the development of “self educating” communities. People are able to converse with others who share the same interests as themselves. These sites are usually based around a singular topic. People can discuss their problems and ideas regarding these topics and they can gain information from other peoples’ knowledge. According to Nicholas Burbules, “Their (self-educating communities) most striking features… is an overt commitment to sharing information, initiating newcomers, and extending their collective knowledge through such processes as shared problem-solving, experimentation, and independent inquiry” (Burbules 1) For example, Pregnancy Net is a place where expecting parents can go to ask questions and get answers from people who may have had the same problem and can offer suggestions or solutions. Because these sites are viewed by so many people, you will not just get one answer to your question, and can interact further with users who have had relevant experiences.
Another benefit of self educating communities in online social networks is their anonymity. Because there is no face-to-face contact on these sites, it is easy to be open and honest about the issue you are discussing, especially if it is personal and perhaps embarrassing. Jacob Palme and Mikael Berglund argue in their essay titled simply, “Anonymity on the Internet,” that although anonymity in never 100%, it does offer for people to be more objective in their evaluation of messages and for people to be more equal towards status, gender, etc. when discussing topics online. While anonymity, as discussed above, can be a drawback to these networks, in the case of sensitive information, it can also prove invaluable.
Self educating social networking sites may lack filtering as well as input from true experts. Though this may seem negative, sometimes people want to seek out information from others that are like themselves- not experts. This comes from a desire to get information from someone who may have a less formal or authoritative voice. For example, people can read newspapers or magazines for restaurant reviews or they can turn to www.yelp.com to view opinions from “real people” who have written “real reviews.” Of course these reviews can be completely arbitrary, but Yelp, Angie's List, Epinions, and the myriad similar sites are prospering. These sites’ lack of filtering offers users to get honest answers and opinions from like-minded people.
Contradictorily, some self educating communities are not equally open for everyone to participate in. Again, according to Nicholas Burbules, “These communities have well-established norms and strategies for building their communities. If individuals are not acquainted with these norms and strategies, or violate them, they may be excluded from the community and the activity of learning from that community” (Burbules 2000). For fans of the band Phish, there is a fan-created, fan-run website set up to discuss everything about the band. This site, although extremely informative, is an example of a self educating community that is not necessarily friendly to everyone. This is not a site for a novice fan or someone simply trying to learn more about the band.
Anonymity on a site like this can have a negative impact on its users. In Palme and Berglund’s essay they discuss that anonymity can lead people to speak to others offensively and disruptively. On the P hish discussion board, you will be ridiculed if you ask basic information about the band or their history or if you post inaccurate information. Many participants use email addresses or signatures that shield their name or identity, and this also can create a sense of detachment from personal obligations of say, being polite or courteous. Because there is a lack of face to face contact, it is easier for people to be blunt or hyper critical of other participants. The site comes off as elitist to avid listeners and anyone who is not a “true” Phish fan.
Trust in a Digital World
In addition, expression through social networking, especially in online forums and informal contexts can not only foster a sense of anonymity but also of trust and intimacy that redefines the boundaries of traditional relationships of trust. The learning curve of developing appropriate emotional intimacy with individuals on social networking sites is a high one, especially for vulnerable youth. New Media and Society performed a study of teens in 2008 in reference to online communities and networks. “For those focused on identity as display, online risks may arise from their willing, sometimes naïve, self-display of personal information to a wide circle of contacts, not all of whom are close friends or sometimes even remembered. For those focused on identity as connection, online risks may arise from their very confidence that they can know, judge and trust the people with whom they are intimate" (Livingstone, p. 408).When users of these networks become very comfortable with their “friends”, they oftentimes feel safe enough to share personal information with them. Users post their “relationship status”, “religious views”, “hometown”, “addresses”, “phone numbers”, etc. Just one or two of these in the hands of the wrong person can be extremely harmful. There has recently been a rise in the risk of identity theft, fraud, and virus attacks for this specific reason (In Study, 2007).REFERENCE
It is interesting to see that this phenomenon of over-disclosure has become an issue among adult educators as well. A professor from Darmouth updated her profile by mentioning how she accessed Wikipedia to obtain the information for her lecture the next day. “I feel like such a fraud. Do you think Dartmouth parents would be upset about paying $40,000 a year for their children to go here if they knew that certain professors were looking up stuff on Wikipedia and asking for advice from their Facebook friends on the night before the lecture?” (Young, 2009) Apparently, this professor was unaware that all users on Facebook were able to read this post. That included her students and their parents .
On some social networking sites, expertise is not only beneficial, but crucial. Burbules states, “External expertise is also important because the very virtues of familiarity and shared assumptions that strengthen a self-educating community internally can also reinforce its blind spots and prejudices. Misconceptions can cycle endlessly within the group without ever being challenged” (Burbules 2000). The way information is transmitted on these sites can cause incorrect information to become widely known as truths. Obviously this could cause many problems particularly on health related sites. Someone who is seeking information on a particular medication can come across hundreds of medical self educating sites where people have posted about that particular medicine. Someone can post about a side effect that they suffered and people can accept that information to be true for everyone who uses that medication.
Survival of the Most Connected?
People who use social networking sites learn to utilize new technologies such as creating blogs and websites as well as learning how to upload photos, music, and movies. In the following video from a researcher at the University of Minnesota, students discuss the benefits they have received from using MySpace.Though users may not realize it, they are in fact using technologically advanced skills that will most likely be beneficial in their education and career particularly if the world is headed in the direction of the “wiki workplace” described in Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’ book Wikinomics. Tapscott and Williams ultimately believe that the world is becoming a place “where only the connected will survive.” They explain that “peering” – what happens when people collaborate together to create new ideas – is leading to a new economy where we all need to and can step up and take a leading role.
People who use social networking sites also gain essential communicative skills. Social networking sites allow for people to “Learn to engage in dialogic, dynamic inquiry, asking questions, venturing other viewpoints, offering clarification and supporting evidence, with the goal of deepening understanding rather than looking for the right answer. Their writing, oral communication and critical thinking skills all improve” (Monroe 2006). www.vocolo.org is a multimedia website that allows its users upload audio or text in response to their “Shout Box.” The “Shout Box” has daily discussion questions that leads to thoughtful responses by users whether by calling in and recording their argument or typing their response on the forum. Again, these skills will undoubtedly be beneficial to a person’s education as well as their career whether it be in a traditional work place or a “wiki work place.”
Not all of the skills acquired by using social networking sites are deemed positive. There is evidence that the technological skills acquired while social networking can be detrimental to a person. In the article titled “Social websites harm children's brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist” by David Derbyshire, Derbyshire refers to Oxford University neuroscientist Susan Greenfield who believes that online networking is “Infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment” (Derbyshire 2009). Although that seems extreme, in the article, teachers express their concern over the fact students’ attention spans have shortened and students have lost the skills to participate in classroom settings. Moreover, a recent study has shown that students who are more involved in social networks feel less involved outside (Nyland, Marvez, & Beck, 2007).
There are arguments that people begin to lack communicative skills from using social networking sites too much. An obvious example of this is the fact that people often shorten words, use incorrect spelling, and leave out punctuation to get a message out more quickly. Teachers all too often have assignments turned that are riddled with common mistakes because students aren’t differentiating between proper writing and messaging writing. Other communications skills that begin to lack because of social networking is a person’s inability to read interpersonal communicative cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone.
Social Networking in the Context of Globalization Edit
Defining Globalization: Edit
In looking at how globalization influences social networking and how social networking influences globalization it is fist necessary to define globalization. While it may seem to be an easy process to define a word, globalization does not have one distinct agreed upon definition. Manfred B Stegar in his Globalization: A Very Short Introduction argues that, "Globalization has been variously used in both popular and academic literature to describe a process, a condition, a system, a force, and an age". Arjun Appadural in Modernity at Large argues that globalization is, the mobility of people, capital, media communication, ideas and ideologies, desire and expectations that is mostly driven by new information and communications technologies" (EPSY530) It is therefore a very difficult concept to define and has many facets as well as that it is a term where the definition is constantly changing and evolving. Some argue that globalization is a relatively new concept that has been fueled by the internet, "connecting" people, ideas, and economies all over the world. Others argue that globalization is hundreds of years old and can be traced back to the age of imperialism. Arguments also arise not only over globalization's definition but also its measurement, its chronology, its causes, its explanations, its effects and how to assess its effects.(EPSY 530) In its simples form, Stegar argues that, “At its core it is about shifting forms of human contact.” This is especially evident in the creation of social networking, which by definition is a new form of human contact that is created by globalization as well as fuels globalization.
Globalization's Influence on Social Networking Edit
Language barriers are broken down as people join social networks that reach the whole world. Language barriers can also be maintained as a result of the globalization of social networks. For example, Facebook allows users to choose a "primary display language" for their account. Even though the Facebook user can view information in his or her native language, their friends may write their profile information in another language, so the user may have to rely on other methods in order to understand the information presented in their friends' profiles.
Globalization makes people feel more connected and makes the world feel smaller. It also affects how people view each other because they form relationships that can transcend geographic boundaries. This would not have been possible before. Globalization makes the global more local.
We use culture to connect with other people and to define ourselves. The decisions that we make with regards to culture, for example, whether we choose to listen to rap music or religious contemplative music is related to our identities, and is in large part, an economic decision. The impact of economies on globalization and social networks is still being measured, but its effects on the world economy are all ready being felt. For example, the creators of Facebook are from the US, but there are Facebook users all over the world. Social networks also make money from ad revenue, which can contribute to the development of a country's economy.
Globalization can also help facilitate a shared world culture-one that is not based on geographic location or language. For example, social networks can connect soccer fans all over the world. A common concern with regard to social networking is that an American based "cultural imperialism" will take over local cultures, resulting in a monolithic "world culture". However, recent studies suggest that this is not the case. Today, economic growth is expanding in countries where American popular culture is not the dominant culture. This is especially true in India and China. In many Islamic countries, where the population is growing steadily, most citizens get their information from local sources, such as Al-Jazeera and listen to local music.
Instead of damaging local "non-Western" cultures, evidence suggests that the greatest effect of globalization and social networking may be on sparsely populated local regions such as Scandinavia. In these regions, the cultures are not hierarchical and citizens are motivated by global influences more than local influences. Tyler Cowen, professor of Economics at George Mason University, suggests that "culture is not a zero sum game...In the broad sweep of history, many traditions have grown together and flourished. American popular culture will continue to make money, but the 21st century will bring a broad melange of influences, with no clear world cultural leader" (Cowen 2007).
Social Networking Fuels GlobalizationEdit
Social networking by definition is a communication tool. It allows people to communicate with those they would not usually have contact with. Someone living in South Africa can now easily share a recipe with someone living in Chicago. This communication includes information, news, ideas, pictures, technology, cultural practices, and anything and everything else that people can commutate to each other in face to face interactions. No longer is communication limited. Ideas and images are becoming more rapidly transmitted from one place to another and are changing the way people live and experience their lives. People can become more "worldly" if they so chose to expose themselves to this global flow of ideas and information. One can sign on a news network from their homes in Chicago and catch up on the all the details from sports of weather of what is happening in Argentina. No longer are people limited by the time/space compression because of the internet and more specifically because of social networking. This communication and flow of ideas is part of the definition of globalization. Globalization includes mobility of ideas and information and social networking is one of the major contributors to this flow. Someone experiencing a problem with their husband in Alaska can now ask the advice of someone who may be having a similar problem in Hong Kong. This way not possible seventy five years ago. Social networking makes the world more connected.
Not only are feelings and opinions shared across the world but so is news. A recent example is the death of the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson. Within moments of the announcment of his death, it was front pages news on google, cnn.com, BBC.com, and Yahoo.com. There are now groups in Facebook devoted to the memory of Michael Jackson, and thousands of celebrities tweeted their thoughts and ideas about the death of Jackson for the world to see. The arugment then becomes: has social networking, and the globalization process that it fuels made the world a smaller more interconnected place? Are we creating an increasingly homogenized culture where we are all exposed to the same news, thoughts, ideas, products and advertisments? Its depends on one's perspective.
Social networking creates a global economy. “No matter how many different numbers are presented…the growth of international activity in the past thirty years remains staggering” (Garrett 2000) A planetary economy is in the making, constituted by, and through, the infrastructures and dynamics of economic globalization. One of the major fuels of this global economy is social networking. People create social networks around travel, technologies, dating, food, gardening etc, and share ideas that fuel the global economy. For example, someone may be a member of Exploroo.com, a popular social networking cite that deals with travel. As a member of Exploroo.com, one can “Travel and explore, meet friends and share experiences with a one-stop social networking community, connecting users to post blogs, articles, videos, and events, book hotels or tours, get travel advice or simply submit your favorite travel photos. Discuss with travelers or travel agents your wants and needs and discover different countries to visit around the globe” (Exploroo.com) One may be inspired to travel to Melbourne Australia after becoming a member of Exploroo and chatting with people who have traveled there, viewing their pictures and reading hundreds of reviews of the city. As many people know travel is a large part of any cities economy and this is just one way that social networking fuels globalization.
Another way that social networking fuels globalization, and more specifically the global economy is through the presence of advertisements on social networking cites. One only has to look at any social networking cite, such as Facebook, Exploroo, Myspace etc., and they are instantly bombarded with ads from thousands of companies. Social networking cites have become just another outlet for marketing. Most social networking cites are free, and they have to make their money some way, so they chose to do it through allowing advertisers to buy out space on their websites. Obviously this then exposes the thousands of people, and sometimes millions of people in the case of Myspace and Facebook, to products from around the world, once again fueling the global economy. When signing into Facebook for example, one is bombarded with ads from various companies-and all of the ads are targeted to the profile information of the user. For example, a dog owner and lover may get Facebook ads for Milk-Bone dog biscuits. Individuals can now even create their own advertisements for whatever products they want for as little as 5 dollars a day on Myspace when they go to https://advertise.myspace.com. One does not even have to be a major company to advertise and get their products seen by millions around the world. This is, by its very definition, globalization. Ideas, more specifically advertisements are connecting people across the world through social networking and making the world more globalized.
One of the things that makes a culture distinct is its own individual language. Language can also be a barrier between people and cultures and to the globalization process as it is hard to connect people when they do not speak the same language. Social networking has started to solve this problem, and thus make the globalization "process" easier and more encompassing. Social Networking has created its own language that people across the world know, use, and understand. Twitter.com is probably one of the most extensive websites that embraces its own language, or its “twords”. A tweeter, or someone who mini blogs their day of for anyone who subscribes to them and cares to read it is limited to only one-hundred and forty characters and therefore must not waste valuable symbols in writing out a full word in English. For example, B = be, b4 = before, BFN = bye for now, BR = best regards, cld = could, da = the, deets = details, F2F = face to face (as in meeting someone in person), JSYK = just so you know, IMHO = in my humble opinion; and the list goes on and on( Faulnker, 2008) . One needs to understand this lingo of “twords” in order to read other peoples tweets as well as to create their own tweets. Obviously if one is not familiar with twitter or other social networking cites then the entire language is lost on them, but for those who use social networking cites around the world, a new universal language is being created, the language of globalization.
Twitter is not the only social networking site that has created its own language or lingo. Facebook could also have its own dictionary. When one wants to get someone’s attention, he or she "pokes" them in Facebook. If a Facebook user wants to leave a message that everyone can see, all he or she has to do is "write it on their wall." Standard Internet lingo is also applied in most social networking cites including Facebook: LOL, OMG and J/K are very common throughout various social networks. Most people who are familiar with computers and the Internet today are familiar with this lingo. Internet speak is so pervasive that many people in "real life" use terms such as LOL or j/k, applying the language to the world outside of the internet. The end result is that social networking and the internet has created a language and lingo that is used and understood by millions of people across the world. The average American may not know how to speak Mandarin, but if someone is China says LOL through a social networking cite, the American will know exactly what their Chinese friends are saying. Globalization is not just economic and political, it is also cultural, and through social networking, there is the start of the creation of a global culture that understands the language of social networking.
As these technologies become more widespread, the boundaries of social networking continue to expand. Indeed, social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook have redefined the traditional definition of what it means to be someone’s friend. Social networking continues to fuel globalization through the interconnectedness's that it creates. While online forums pose challenges for communicating, so do traditional methods of communication. The challenges posed by online social networking, and the potential benefits to informal and formal education, are still emerging. While social networking is not a new phenomenon, it is something that is slowly and newly starting to be embraced in the educational world. The technology that enables this new level of connection is a vehicle, one that has the potential to open up information to more people than has ever been possible at any point through out human history.
Challenges and Opportunities of Social Networking
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