I think Beer makes good observations in response to boyd and Ellison’s article. Although he is a little too critical about their ideas, both articles are important in understanding social media and networking. In Beer’s article, he makes further distinction between “networking” and “networks”. “Networking” is only applicable to certain websites and the term social network sites should become an umbrella term. He acknowledges that many of these websites’ applications overlap categories, which is why he wants more classifications in order to accommodate new online cultures. Boyd and Ellison centers on what makes a social network site, which has the ability to: construct profiles, add a list of users with whom they have a connection, and be able to view their list. The importance is the ability to connect with people you already know in real life.
I am conflicted by both articles’ opinions on separating online and offline relationships. Boyd and Ellision suggests that friends on SNSs are not the same as your real life friends and Beer thinks otherwise. I agree more with boyd and Ellision and separating your real life friends and SNS friends is an important distinction. Although my friends are people I know in real life, they are not the people I would call my close friends or who I want to keep in touch with all the time. To me SNS friends are people who I stay connected with because we met in certain situations. My SNS list does not reflect my real life friends.
I double major in media and communications and sociology, because I thought many of the theories related very closely to each other. In the case of studying social media, it should be treated as a distinct subject. Many things we know about human interactions can be applied to our virtual connections. Although SNS is the virtual world it has had a strong influence and is incorporated closely with our everyday actions. I think it is important to address how and why it has impacted us so strongly as a society and why we as individuals are so obsessed over it.
In class we discussed how individuals are able to manipulate their identities and present themselves in specific ways. This allows for users to comment indiscriminately and form connections and community based on similar opinions. In a previous human communications class we read from many theorists including Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”. I think this can be applied sociologically to the developing identities on SNSs and networks. His theories are analogous to how humans interact socially. Goffman writes about how people put on performances in their everyday lives to present to the “audience”. There are layers and techniques for these daily performances and require the “actor” to adapt to their surroundings. This is very similar to social network users because they too are often putting a persona on display. Again, how they interact on SNSs may not be how they are in real life.
I think this traditional way of applying past theories to new social media is an important step in understanding these new forms of connections. It is important to acknowledge that human communication is changing everyday with the development of social network sites. Society tries very hard to keep up and predict the future of social network sites. I think it will be a challenge for scholars as well to keep up with changing communications and connections.