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Social Networking Sites, More Harm Than Good?

2170 words - 9 pages

Since the late 1990s, the proliferation of social networking sites has grown to permeate the lives of not only Americans but also people worldwide. Beginning in 1997, the use of social networking sites has grown to the point where “Facebook reported one billion monthly users worldwide on October 4, 2012” (Procon.org). Established less than ten years ago in 2004, Facebook is currently the world's most popular social networking on the planet, counting one out of seven people worldwide interacting with its site. Academic literature has exhaustively researched the use of social networking in recent years but one question has yet to be resolved: Do social networking sites cause more harm than good? This discourse takes the position that, despite the many harmful effects observed by the use (or misuse) of social networking sites, on balance they been of overall benefit to both individuals and societies across the globe. While this brief discussion cannot hope to unequivocally determine the question of good versus harm, it will present an argument to support the conclusion that social networking sites have both useful commercial, with personal applications, and should be considered a boon rather than a bane to our 21st century world.
This paper outlines a brief history of the beginning of social networking sites followed by an examination of privacy issues regarding the use of social networking sites and concludes with a comparison of the pros and cons of user interaction. As thoughtful observers may draw different conclusions from identical data, it should be stressed that individual mindsets can color one's perception of the use of social networking sites. Thus, the perception of social networking sites often depends upon how one prioritizes issues such as privacy, communication and social advocacy.
First, what is the definition of a social networking site? Boyd and Ellison define social networking 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 with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.” While an integral part of a social networking sites includes a cyberspace presence, it should be clarified that instant messaging (IM) services and “chat rooms” are not considered part of the social networking site paradigm. The essential attributes of a social networking site include the capability of creating profiles that express users' backgrounds and interests as well as participation in a virtual community that shares media such as images, music and URLs (procon.org). Boyd and Ellison raise the point that social networking sites have revolutionized communication by facilitating users to link and visualize their social networks to others who are part of their online community. This public demonstration of connectivity is central to the efficacy of social...

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