Social networks are an important and topical issue due to their wide distribution and huge growth worldwide. Social media unite millions of not just users, but even fans, for whom “social sites” are replacing conventional instant messengers or e-mail, largely because of the much larger number of available information and exchange opportunities. Social networks are integral parts of the Internet in the 21st century, and take important place in the life of modern society. Global interest to the social networks could not help influencing people’s lives, bringing new opportunities in communication and exchanging information. But at the same time social networks are said to have too much influence on people, while millions of users spent huge part of their time in that networks, so that many specialists warn about negative effects of that time spending.
Today there is a change in network of media contacts. Few years ago the most important factor for information dissemination in the Internet were search engines, which were, in fact, dominant in the field of information distribution. For sites owners the major factor of entering the information field was the dominance in the search engines for relevant queries. At the same time there is reformation of the information field and transition of dominance in favor of social networks.
The evidence of the rapid development of social networks and growth of their audience is the fact that Facebook in the late 2010 had over 500 million active users who spend a total of 700 billion minutes per month on its site. America currently leads the number of users list with almost 150 million users, followed by Indonesia with about 35 million users. (The Commission of the European Communities 2010)
An interesting report on world social networks made Bas van den Beld, the founder and owner of Stateofsearch.com. Together with his team he prepared a map of social networks of the world at the end of 2010.
The map shows Facebook’s trend of global domination, being leader in 100 out of 127 countries analyzed, and having covered even rural areas of the world.
The rise in popularity of blogs and social networks is supported by many sociological studies conducted by leading analytical agencies around the world. The most well-known international networks include: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Classmates, LinkedIn, Friendster, etc.
Today there is a number of trends, which are pushing for the development of social networks around the world:
- First of all, it is the socialization of all people due to globalization and growth of international communications;
- design and development of niche social networks;
- maintenance of existing ones;
- The active implementation of social networks in the business;
- mobile social networks;
- active exchange of information. (Armano 2009)
All the described trends are quite logical and accurately reflect the current reality. The main purpose for which ordinary people use social networks is communication, that is maintaining contact with friends and relatives, as well as search for new contacts. In addition to solving the problem of communication, social networks solve many other problems, for example, they allow employees to actively communicate with each other, helping the process of teambuilding and teambuilding. (Castells 2009)
However, when talking about social networks as a global phenomenon it must be said that many experts argue that social networks substitute real communication, “kill” working hours and lead to break up of families. Western statisticians have calculated that in the UK, for example, local businesses lose more than $ 14 billions pounds a year due to the fact that employees of companies communicate in such networks during working hours. People derelict millions of hours of work per month, and it is very difficult to deal with this. People are so drawn into global networks that companies are losing money and working hours of their employees. (Financenew.co.uk )
One of the problem that many psychologists claim is that virtual “classmates” and other social networking sites have replaced normal communication of people with friends and even families. Why do people began to spend so much time in these social networks, which, in fact, replace a real life? Is virtual communication better than real communication? Psychologists say that social networking does not contribute to the establishment of contacts between people. Internet communication -is an illusion, and the substitution of real life. (Kujath 2010)
Along with positive influence of social networks on person it is important to mention about Internet addiction in general, when people simply can not live without the virtual space, and reality is no longer interesting for them. People are increasingly pulled into a world of fantasy, fiction, and virtual communication, through which they receive social support, are included in a certain social group (community), where have the opportunity to offset their need for communication. According to the researcher Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, author of the new recommendations for dealing with social networks, Facebook gives a distorted view of life. Some users, examining the number of friends, statuses, photos, reviews, may decide that they do not correspond with some common standarts. These feelings are much more painful than loneliness in real life, and may lead to depression. As young users and teenagers say Facebook “is as a test of how popular you are, how many friends you have and how much people love your pictures”. Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe stress that Facebook is too aggressive environment for young people, if they have low self-esteem, as they may have a depression because of that virtual problems. The recommendations of Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe were published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (American Academy of Pediatric, 2011)
As reported by American Academy of Pediatric, O’Keefe and her colleagues recommend that doctors encourage parents to talk with children and to discuss with teens the risks of online communication, including methods of conflict of psychological terror on the Internet and Facebook-depression. In this case, physicians do not deny the undoubted advantages of social networks: fast communication with friends and family, opportunities to share pictures and opinions. (American Academy of Pediatric, 2011)
Social networks are integral parts of the Internet in the 21st century, are the most important components of the development of telecommunications networks and the possibility of direct communication between people around the world. Social networks have brought many new opportunities for communication, information exchange and business development, but also caused the associated problems of loss of information and personal data, violation of privacy, psychological impact on people.
Armano D. “Six Social Media Trends for 2010”. HARVARD BUSINESS ONLINE, November 3, 2009
Castells M. The rise of the network society. John Wiley and Sons, 2009
“Docs warn about Facebook use and teen depression”. American Academy of Pediatric, 2011. Web. 24 Apr 2011
Kujath, C L. “Facebook and MySpace : Complement or Substitute for Face-to-Face Interaction ?” Cyberpsychology behavior and social networking 14.1 (2010) : 75-78.
“Social Networking Costs 14 Billion Pounds a Year in Lost Work Time”. Financenew.co.uk. Web. 24 Apr 2011
“Social Networks Overview: Current Trends and Research Challenges”. The Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General. European Union, 2010
Picture 1: Communication: Social media usage and e-mail usage
Picture 2: World map of social networks
Pic 3: Popular social networks