Dr. David Beer responds to danah boyd & Nicole Ellison’s article by criticizing the lack of clarity in their formulated definition of “Social Network Sites” (SNS), as opposed to their definition of “Social Network(ing) Sites”, which is something very specific implying that networking is the main purpose of those participating on networking sites (518). In addition, Beer proposes that such distinction between the two terms merely causes confusion and serves to be unnecessary. Instead, he believes that setting these terms under a bigger umbrella terminology where multiple categories can be included would be a better alternative (519). Beer also opposes boyd & Ellison’s differentiation made between offline “friends” and online “Friends”. He sees the two terms as overlapping, where many times, online “Friends” are also one’s offline “friends”. Thus friendship that takes place online and offline are very similar and shouldn’t be categorized into two distinct groups (520). Beer critiques boyd & Ellison’s proposed issue of SNS users’ lack of knowledge and understanding of other users’ identities and purposes by pointing out that if anyone just takes time to observe each other’s online activities, such questions will be answered. In addition, users should not only limit themselves to identifying what users use SNS for, but learn about their activities and associate themselves with them (522). Beer also perceives that people should shift their attention to something more important. The way capitalism affects us, and how third parties and advertisers are using these SNS to their advantage (526).
I personally agree with both articles to a certain extent. I do see the difference between “Social Network Sites” and “Social Network(ing) Sites”, however many social media sites fall in someplace between the two, creating confusion. In a sense, I do agree with boyd & Ellison’s distinction between the terms, but I certainly don’t view the terms as something everyday SNS users should really be aware of or focus on because like I said , most SNS fall into both categories. The only difference is one may carry more qualities of one than the other. So why bother taking the time to strictly categorize which type of site one may belong to? Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter according to boyd & Ellison would fall into SNS. However, I see such categorizations to occur under context specific conditions. With Facebook, most of my friends have a Facebook account, and most of the time I only comment on pictures, walls, and statuses of those I am friends with offline, or closer to, but if a total stranger who has no mutual friends with me messages me or ‘friends’ me, I would 99% of the time ignore it. Why? Because the amount of friends I actually know offline outnumbers those I don’t. Facebook here, for me would be categorized as a SNS because of the fact that I’m only connecting with those I know offline rather than meeting and ‘networking’ with strangers. However, the case here is different with Twitter. When I first started using Twitter, barely any of my friends were on it. So of course, I mostly followed celebrities and Youtube stars, basically people I didn’t personally know. Random Twitter users would follow me, which I found to be very shocking at first because I was so used to the norm built around Facebook, the norm that people only connect with people they actually know. And so I would also randomly follow them back, and next thing I know, I’m engaging in interesting conversations or “tweets” with total strangers around the world. So wait a second, doesn’t this seem like Social Network(ing) because strangers are connecting with each other? My point is that categorizing different social media sites into one or the other is all context specific. If 90 % of my friends were on twitter, then yeah, I guess I would mostly engage in tweeting with my friends only, but would I ever follow back a fellow Twitter user I’ve never come in contact with before? Probably not. Then, in this case Twitter would be a SNS according to boyd & Ellison’s definition.
Now my perspective on “friends” vs. “Friends”, are they much different from each other like boyd & Ellison proposed or are they very similar, according to Beer? My answer is that they can be both. Again, I see this as context specific. On Facebook, I would see the two terms as overlapping because most of my “friends” are my “Friends” on Facebook. However, using the Twitter example, I do see a difference between the two. I would say that more than half of my followers are people who are subscribed to my Youtube channel, in other words people I don’t personally know or, “Friends”. What’s ironic about Twitter is the fact that they list the people you follow as your “Friends”. Now whether that “Friend” is with a capital “F” or not, would be different for everyone. In conclusion, I see neither one of the articles to be more empowering over the other. It all depends on the context. My critique is that everything should be carefully evaluated. Always take the context surrounding the information into concern.