The Rise of Social Networks

Communication has been enhanced over the past several years through ongoing developments in technology. With each generation, communication has enabled groups to effectively converse with one another. Thomas Edison created the very first talking motion picture in the year 1910. During the year 1927, radio was created and the now popular network CBS aired its first show. The very first television broadcasts begin in 1939 and in 1440; the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press process that remained the principal means of printing until the late 20th century. It was during this time that communities at large depended heavily on printed material to communicate and disperse information regarding worldwide events and engage in leisure reading. The 20th century also gave birth to the official implementation of the internet in 1982. With the creation of the internet, came new innovative ideas that would forever change the way we communicate. The aforementioned dates are certainly abbreviated and a lot of work and research was done that ultimately led up to the development of the various aspects of media. With each development a new hub of socialization was created; which in time has transformed into our current media practices.

Media portals such as television and radio were a time for families to come together to socialize and engage in conversation. When I was a child my mother, aunts and uncles would share stories of how they would gather around a single radio box in the living room and listen intently to the stories that came over the airwaves. “We would watch this little brown box with the small speaker as if the face of humanity was staring right at us,” says my mother. I tried to envision what it must have been like to huddle together as a family only to be entertained by a voice coming through a small transmitter radio. When I think of entertainment these days, I see children, alone in their bedrooms with their eyes glued to a computer, cell phone or television set while their parents are locked in another room typing feverishly on a computer meeting work-related deadlines. This analogy leads me to the new wave of social networking that has seemingly taken over the lives of the young and old. Whereas socialization of years ago seemed to bring families and friends together, this new age of technology apparently isolates us from physical contact and pulls us into a world of seclusion and narcissism. Social networking used to bring friends and colleagues together at a local bar, restaurant, movies or some other venue that provided an opportunity for socialization. Now, social networking sites such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Linked In and even Skype keeps us sheltered in the privacy of our own home. Social networking is no longer expected to include physical contact… quite the contrary. With social networking you’re only required to have a computer or a cell phone and you will be instantly connected with thousands of people across the globe. Our social networking clicks are no longer limited to the friends in our community, school, jobs, etc., they now include friends of friends, friends we’ve lost contact with over the years and more. With the click of a button we can become instant friends with a complete stranger and with one page view, you can learn more about a person in the time it would take you to take the train to a local club to hang out with friends.

With 250 million active registered users, Facebook is the top global social network. Facebook has become the social network of choice and connects people globally day in and day out. When I was younger, my mother kept me active in social activities and weekly trips to cultural events. It was important for me to see my friends on a daily basis. We did have a telephone, but our preference was to be outside, run, skip, yell, scream or whatever would help us release our energy. Over the years, social networking sites and cell phones have replaced outdoor activities for not only young people, but for adults. As I travel on public transportation or simply go for a walk, it is rare that I don’t run into someone whose face isn’t glued to a little handheld device or this same handheld device is glued to their ear.

While social networking sites have its advantages, the disadvantage is that it interferes with face to face communication. I’m guilty of that myself. I’d much rather communicate via text, than talk on the phone. Instant messaging on Facebook is appealing to me because it allows me to control the conversation and I can exit without having to find polite excuses. Conversing via Facebook allows me to multi-task without appearing rude because there’s no one in my space to monitor or interpret my actions. I love social networking via the worldwide web; but I also understand the importance of in-person communication. At times it’s a challenge to maintain the balance of social networking on the web and social networking in person; however, I will say that Facebook has provided me with the opportunity to reconnect with former classmates, colleagues, family and more. Most of us have chosen this method of communication and we find that we keep in touch more through Facebook than we ever did before. I’m sure social networking and methods of communication will continue to evolve. I’m looking forward to what the future has in store.