Blog Promt 1: “SN(ING)”

In class studies of social media networks, several articles were used to further understand the purpose and effects of SNS (social media networks). Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison’s article’s “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” explain how the authors categorize their definition of SNS’s (Social Network Sites) into three sections. In their words, SNS are composed of the construction of a profile (which may vary from site to site), a specific list of users who can share their information (in other words, a network between these people), and the options provided to view those networks. Boyd and Ellison also enforce the difference between “social networks,” and “social networking sites.” They both agree that they prefer the term is “social network” because the word “networking” is related to the initiation of a relationship- which they do not believe is the purpose of these sites. Instead, Boyd and Ellison believe that pre-existing relationships are moved to virtual world via these social networks. According the article, another way to describe SNS’s are through the varied technological affordances provided by each site; for example the accessibility of the site or whether the ties are bidirectional (meaning access to ones page is mutually granted like Facebook) or unidirectional (meaning access to one persons page doesn’t guarantee access to the other like Twitter.)  These depictions of social networks can be argued, especially as the networks continue to advance.

Dr. David Beer’s opinion on “social network sites ” differs from that of Boyd and Ellison’s, as shown in his article “Social Network(ing) Sites. Revisiting the story so far: A response to Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison. First off, Beer does not agree with the term “social network” rather than “social networking” his reason being the term is too broad and excludes numerous sites. Dr. Beer argues that Boyd and Ellison simply chose to analyze the wrong aspects of social networks. He believes it is more about the way society is effected by what is posted on SNS then what people actually post. “This is what is missing, a more political agenda that is more open to the workings of capitalism,” Beer quoted from the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. To him, the question of social network vs. networking is not really of utmost concern, but instead to go deeper into how SNS effects society, capitalism, marketing etc. Also, as opposed to Boyd and Ellison, Beer writes of his disapproval of the differentiation between on-line off-line friends. Beer believes their should be no such line drawn between the two because every relationship is valid wherever it may exist, along with the idea that all existing communication is mediated and always has been. 

Reading these two articles provided rational and intelligent points about SNS. Taking these points into consideration, I both agree and disagree with the three authors. In my opinion, Boyd and Ellison provide a precise description of SNS with their three categories. Using the difference Boyd and Ellison provided in the terms “social networks” and “social networking,” I disagree that the preferred term be “social networking.” I believe that a large goal of SNS is to initiate relationships rather than continue pre-existing relationships. I came to this conclusion because of the way I have experienced the use of SNS throughout my teenage life. I have met more than half of the people I know through Facebook.  Of course my page is filled with people I already knew, but in my High School, Facebook was definitely a way to get in touch with people you could not speak to in person, in other words “a friend of a friend.” This was done through private Facebook messages or friend requesting a person you were interested in befriending. “Social Networking” seems more appropriate to me even for those sites that do not provide access to other users, because in my opinion the user is still gaining access to a site/store/seller they would not have normally reached.

       I must disagree with Beers opposition to the differentiation between on-line and off-line friends. Boyd and Ellison claim there is a difference between on and offline friends although it is minimal. In my opinion, there is a great difference between on and offline friends. Call me old-fashion but a friend with which you communicate with in person is not the same as a Facebook friend you never met. As we discussed in class, relationships are greatly affected by the lack of social cues (Donah reading). It is even difficult to know if a person is who they identify themselves as on social networks, especially on Twitter which is less visual providing more opportunity to hide true identity

 I believe that the questions posed about SNS should provide both those of Boyd and Ellison, as well as Beer. The questions in each of the articles are of equal importance in my opinion and one cannot stand without the other. Beer writes that the questions should be focused deeper that what people post, but instead how the posts effect society; However how can we study the way posts effect society as a whole without thinking the of individual opinions? Individual posts are just as important. Therefore, combining the inquiries made by both articles may be beneficial to the study of SNS.

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