Boyd and Ellison’s article describes what they believe is the definition of a social network. Their three part definition states “we define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (boyd & Ellison, 211). Beer’s response, is more than anything a critique of their work. He believes that boyd and Ellison do give a thorough analysis of social network sites (coined SNS), however, he feels they did not conduct it in the correct manner. As we discussed in class; Beer thinks, instead of asking how do people use social media, we should be asking broader questions, and using social media to ask them.
One problem Beer has with boyd and Ellison, is their varying definitions between “social network” and “social networking.” They believe social networking is when users of a site initiate meeting new people, etc. While social networks maintain already substantiated relationships. Beer believes by creating this shift in definitions, there isn’t much you are achieving. He feels that instead, there should be one extensive term, like “Web 2.0,” that will be able to define the shift and fitting of different categories within the spectrum of social networks. I tend to agree with Beer. While discussing the difference in class between “social network” and “social networking,” I was left very confused and puzzled. Giving two separate terms doesn’t create something that is profound or noteworthy, rather it just leaves people being even more speculative of the whole institution of social media networking/networks then they were before.
Another criticism of their work that Beer maintains, is boyd and Ellison’s classification of “Friends” and “friends.” They believe that “Friends” online, are those people that we are connected with whether it be from school or work, and “friends” are those friendships we have in the real world. Beer believes hat there is no difference between our online and offline relationships. He feels that making this distinction is not useful from a sociological perspective. I tend to both agree and disagree with Beer and boyd and Ellison. Boyd and Ellison are right about the difference that “Friends” are people you’ve known throughout your life but aren’t as close to as your real “friends.” However, I agree with Beer that their distinction with these “Friends” and “friends” is not truly the best thing. We have a separate life than that that of such social networking sites like Facebook. This life is with our friends and family, interacting face-to-face. Whether it be sitting at home and just watching a movie together, having a conversation on the phone, shopping at the mall, or grabbing a coffee and talking about what’s going on our lives. However, this separate life can be continued through sites, to maintain these friendships as boyd and Ellison claim as the purpose of social networks. For example, on Facebook, we are able to post links or other sources of media we find funny to our friends’ walls. We can write things related to discussions we had in our previous face-to-face interactions, or even continue those conversations through chat or message. The video below is a little bit of comic relief towards differentiating “Friends” and “friends.”
Finally, Beer also believes that people like boyd and Ellison, are not inserting a critique about capitalism when it comes to social networking sites. He feels that they are looking at specific users rather than looking at the economics of the sites. I also agree with Beer’s claim. What really is the agenda of these sites? Yes we use them as a relief from our own lives as either entertainment, or catching up with friends. However, there is something much bigger that is going on that people may be overlooking. When we sign onto sites like Twitter or Facebook, we see there are all these different pages about different consumer goods, restaurants, movies, television programs, etc. We are able to “like” these pages or become “fans” based on our interests. Yes we may have interests in these things, however, what is the goal of creating these pages? To perhaps create a larger audience for these products, shows, etc? To create more of an awareness? This is all used by big businesses for their own benefit because everyone’s goal is to make money at the end of the day. Also, sites like Facebook are able to take user’s information that are provided from their interests, activities sections, etc. to put advertisementss on their sidebars that are related to the information that is retrieved. This not only exploits user’s profiles, but it also leads to privacy issues. Jessica Mintz states in an article featured in Bloomberg Businessweek entitled “Microsoft, Facebook team up on social search, “Privacy concerns have plagued Facebook over the years as the company has encouraged members to reveal more details about themselves. The site has a history of introducing features that people must then remove, or opt out of, instead of waiting for members to actively sign up for the new features. That approach has riled privacy advocates” (http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9IR22AG2.htm) Creating all of these features and applications “intended” to express who users are as individuals on Facebook, coincidentally allows Facebook to use it’s power to create a major consumerist machine.