Social Networks & their influences

Social Networks and their influences

            While social networks are headed down a somewhat foggy road, they still serve a plethora of moderately useful functions with debatable consequences. In varying ways by means of technology, users of all types are prompted to use various social networks for reasons ranging from boredom to necessity. The uses of cellphones can be seen in contrast of larger social networks like the Internet, as more defined or exclusive networks, yet no less important. In fact, eventually cell phones and the Internet will both be a part of the same thing; cellphones will become an extension of the Internet. But aside from phones different social network sites provide different functions, and each type of function merits its own  analysis in order to determine its possible effects.

Face Book is the current champion of Internet social network sites (S.N.S's for short) due to the  sheer volume of users. Statistics gathered by Northwestern University say around 80% of college students use Face Book; with those kind of numbers we can expect to see consistent widespread effects. But not just any Joe or Jane is likely to use Face Book. Hispanic students were found to be far less likely to use Face Book and instead were more likely to use "My Space". This would suggest initially that there exists a type of digital inequality where the likely hood of recruiting a new ethnic user (getting a friend to join for example) are somewhat defined. Perhaps it is simply due to the fact that the Caucasian population is so large that their social network of friends has more potential for shared information, which follows from Metcalfe's law which will be discussed later. Given that, Hispanic individuals seem secluded in a sea of Caucasians, it is no stretch to see why the sharing of information might be hindered or even snuffed in many ways; assuming the old saying "birds of a feather" holds true in this case.   

What is Face Book? Like many S.N.S's of its type, Face Book enables users to create a web page dedicated to themselves, from which they can upload pictures of themselves (hence "face" book) or pictures of others if they are so inclined. Users also have what is known as a "wall" on which their accepted friends can freely post messages or comments for you or all to see. In essence, your accepted friends will be able to visit your page as a means of contact; they can tell you a joke or notify you of an important event, and likewise, you can visit your friends various pages and do the same for them.

In some cases Face Book can become more efficient than real life communication interactions in the sense that you can maintain a number of friends which would be impossible to manage without the assistance of tools like face book; these are described as supernets. Supernets are arguably beneficial as well as effective; some say supernets simply cannot capture the entire needs of the Internet population at large and that: suprenets, if existent, would have to be just as diverse as the Internet itself. 

In Face Books grandeur and frequent usage, paralells start to form between real life and this new pixelated replacement; As Judith Donath from the MIT Media Lab writes, acts like avatar up-keep (avatar is your display image) can be seen as conscious social statements, paralleled in real life scenarios like mowing your lawn twice a week. A whole new world of interaction based patterns can emerge like "spamming", "courtesy posting" and even role-playing.  

"Spamming" is when a user posts multiple messages in a short period of time. Not just a few messages but a lot of messages. It could be an actual message or simply a single word repeated over and over. The intent of spamming could be to cause disruption, or perhaps to simply get a point across in an angry way. Outside the world of technological aided communication spamming can be paralleled with general conflict between 2 or more individuals. Though the outcome differs in either case, inevitable negative interactions such as spamming are as existent in social networks like Face book as fist fighting is existent in pubs. The only difference is that  from Face Book, you swing at somebody's ego.

"Courtesy posts" are are a peculiar occurrence; like a nod in the hallway, a formal greeting on somebody's "wall" might serve the same function as yearly Christmas card in preserving a friendship, but they may also be used as subtle moves toward a more particular goal.

From exchanging notes to exchanging numbers, to posting on each others "wall"; Face Book along with many other social networks provide a valuable tool for advancing yourself socially, which has obvious benefits. Like a school girl plotting ways to seclude her crush in order to seduce him, Face Book, "the supernet", can be used as an efficient tool for men and women to peruse romance or other pecking order related fancies, be them warranted or not. Intriguingly, this efficient supernet can open the door for unwanted attention, particularly the sexual variety.

Wherever people gather to communicate on the net, you can bet there will be some lunatic there  who would pay money to harass you. What's kind of ironic is that supernet's efficiency makes unwanted things like sexual harassment more efficient as well as what it sets out to. In fact, the ability to do so anonymously is arguably the most powerful tool used by such a person; but inevitably we must always take the good with the bad.

 So is this a problem created by the supernet? Though there is no reason to believe that the Internet creates its sexual predators, it is easy to fathom how you wouldn't have to worry about them if the Internet didn't exist. But it is probably one of those inevitable types of downsides; the overall diversity of the Internet paves the way for all types of interactions. On that note one of the biggest Internet related concerns is the circulation and production of child pornography. If we cannot stop that, how can we stop things less serious like verbal harassment.

The influences of a supernet are arguably good or bad in the end, but things like communication, entertainment, and companionship are worth the small prices of a few annoyances here and there, which is why Face Book remains incredibly popular. With popularity however, comes responsibility. Face Book does a good job at keeping spammers and strangers at bay; you must accept someone as a friend before they can view your profile; these common sense restrictions like friend requests are in place but the safety and experiences of Face Book vary depending upon its user. An elementary school kid may use Face Book as a fun way of chatting but a Business man may use Face Book as a vital meeting place; contrary to both, someone might use Face Book with the intention of marketing a product or even sexual interest. No matter what your interests may be, Face Book has a group dedicated to them. In that sea of diversity, aside from DNA, throw uniqueness out the window.

One of my friends made a group called "how many people can join this group" and within two weeks, he had around ten thousand members. This is a testament to the networking power of Face Book; it has been said that everyone knows everyone else through seven acquaintances. If that is true then on Face Book everyone is connected through 4 or 5  acquaintances, maybe even less. They have a group for everything, but it is still up to the user to decide what they want out of their Face Book use. Some replace their social lives with a perceived greater social life of late nights and pixels. Pixels... It is curious why someone can believe mere pixels are more enjoyable than real life; i guess it's saying something about the human condition. Are pixels becoming more desirable than real life?

"Chatango" is like Face Book's younger brother. Like Face Book you have a profile page which all can see, but instead of the function revolving around your profile, it revolves around chat rooms. These chat rooms can be run by users and websites at leisure for any reason. In particular, an anime related website uses Chatango to place a mini chat room box on their website which is viewable upon entry. This chat box is used by the traffic of the website presumably to discuss anime, but that is not what happens. 

These numerous Chatango chat boxes become like nodes of interaction amidst the grandeur of the Internet. They are melting pots where everyone, even those who don't sign up, have the ability to communicate to anyone who is there to listen. In my example, anime is a usual topic, and considering everyone is there because they want to view anime, that's no surprise. What is surprising however, is the amount of detachment from that central theme. If you want to say something in this chat box you type in your message and hit enter. If you are a first time user it will ask you if you would like to choose a specific nickname, and if not you will simply be named "Anon" (meaning anonymous). Once your name is chosen you are free to type anything you please without restriction; cussing is very frequent. Aside from being able to send text messages you also have the ability to present photos in the chat box or even videos from Youtube; as i will explain later, turns out to have varying consequences. 

On this particular site there are many regulars; regular chatters that is. For extended periods of time they chat not about anime, but merely out of boredom. Anywhere from 2 to 20 of these regulars might engage each other for hours at a time, chatting as if they were school chums. They tell jokes and share stories, some even exchange photos and in extreme cases I have seen people giving out their telephone numbers. These "regulars" have taken an anime discussion chat room and made a home of it. But there are  a multitude of types of users, so when considering the possible effects of this social network, one must consider the type of user more than anything.

The most interesting action which take place in these Chatango boxes is role play. It is common practice to put an Asterix before a message (*like so) and then write a descriptive sentence describing an imaginary action they might take. Something like: "*Slaps Ted with a fish". At first they do this jokingly, but as it becomes more and more common, its uses go from joke to game. Paralleled in the real world by dungeons and dragons and games of pretend, I have witnessed users of Chatango engage in these "role play" games for hours. They do everything from raise a family to save the world, and all in the Asterix form. Five or Six regulars are liable to sit for hours entertaining each other with this role playing game, which leads me to wonder about their social backgrounds. If they engage in this activity for hours, it is probable that they are getting a large amount of enjoyment out of it. Couple that with the fact that these regulars do this every day, the assumption that Chatango maintains the majority of their social interactions is not far off. These hardcore regulars derive a great portion of self esteem from the fellowship Chatango provides, but this also attracts another type of user looking for self-esteem.

At any time about 400 people read what is typed on the Chatango chat box, but only about 20 engage in conversation. Most of the users are busy watching anime, but it is safe to assume that there are quite a few readers. Sometimes the regulars can get a little out of hand with their games and can seem quite childish, this attracts the attention of bully's. Internet bully's, as i like to call them, will outright attack the individual for a multitude of reasons, dislike being the common factor. These bully's will go at length to have their usually hateful messages read by whoever they are attacking. Sometimes they have an impact on the regulars, which results in them leaving for a short while, but often this is when the only democratic feature of Chatango comes into use.

Users have the option to cast a vote against any other user; this is not a good vote. When a user has enough votes against him, he is kicked and banned from the chat box for 150 minutes. So given that there are enough regulars, any bully can quickly be dealt with by having everyone cast a vote against him or her. This has a sort of inverted parallel in real life situations; on Chatango there are no consequences for standing up to a bully. In the real world however, bully's often are able to scare a large group into submission even though they greatly outnumber the bully. The anonymity of Chatango allows for people to give their opinion without fear of being punched in the mouth; in this sense, Chatango makes for a level playing field. Its almost educational.

Similar to bully's, spammers are also a frequent occurrence on Chatango. These are people who are sick of reading whatever is being typed and decide to disrupted them.. They achieve this by rapidly flooding the chat box with usually offensive messages, and like the bully, they are usually voted against and kicked.

Besides bully's and spammers, there is a distinct division of the sexes on Chatango. There are many young girls who have girlish nicknames and provocative display pictures; this of coarse, attracts what we call sexual predators.

Their entrances are always obvious, whenever a sexual predator says something, it is easy to tell where they are trying to steer a conversation. Some more innocent ones simply ask if anyone needs a girlfriend or a boyfriend in hopes they will attract the desired attention. But other more sinister users will slowly try and gain trust in order to seclude their victims like the Internet predator cliche would have us believe. Not always being easy to spot, these individuals are less likely to arouse enough votes to be kicked, which results in a very distinct existence of sexual discussion. This even translates into the role playing games where they might say  : *gets in the shower and invites everyone. Though often their intentions are not sinister, the fact that they are so sexually oriented is a testament to the common discussions of this particular Chatango box in question. I often ask them "whats the point of having a girlfriend in a chat room?". Half of them become shameful and fade into the background, while the other half call me a jerk for ruining their fun. This is also indicative of varying levels of seriousness and necessity in what the users are looking for. The 12 year old kid might get friendship where the sexual predator gets something a lot less innocent.

 In the melting pot that is Chatango, some derive more self esteem than others, and some are there simply for a laugh. Comically if you are there to talk about anime, you are perceived as extremely boring and annoying. Like Face Book, Chatango is a plum tree with a quality of fruit which varies depending on which side you pick it from, but unlike Face Book, Chatango is composed of thousands of trees and not one giant tree. In Chatango, if you pick a bad tree, any plum will be rotten.

Chatango is a place which provides entertainment for most of its users, as i have said for some  the entertainment is taken more seriously than others; some consider it an excellent place to make friends. But being the melting pot that it is, Chatango is a place where something is always happening, and what you take away from the experience is decided by your level of involvement.

One intriguing aspect of the online chatting world of Chatango is the very nicknames which are chosen. As Wyke Stommel suggests, different types of users will pick certain nicknames for different reasons. On a German forum dedicated to eating disorders, many of the users chose nicknames which reflected obesity in ways which made them seem proud of their disorders. The same happens in the anime chat box where half of the users have nicknames of their favorite anime characters. I think it can be said that when these users come together for a common reason they feel a sense of humility or companionship in grouping which results in the apparent embracing of something which would otherwise seem negative (the obesity). In the case of the German forum this effect seems very prominent, but in the more diverse nature of the Chatango chat box, the anime related nicknames seem reflective of a forgotten purpose. 

If you ask any user why he comes to the chat box if not to discuss anime, odds are he will respond: "for entertainment". Personally I went there out of interest, so I suppose it came down to entertainment. My nickname was specifically chosen to insight conflict from which to form some of my assumptions; my nickname was "Communist". Which is very reflective of my purpose there and what I took away from it.

A thousand years ago if you tried to explain the functions of an average cellular phone, you might as well be describing a fantastic wizard with a magical tome of mysteriousness. The ability to instantly communicate over vast distances would have been seen as nothing short of magic. But even to us present-day dwellers who don't actually understand the science behind cellular technology, we see them as tools serving a need; nothing epic about them at all. But we largely take conveniences like cell phones for granted; cell phones have saved people a lot of time and money by allowing the free exchange of messages and information instantly from anywhere. They make the Pony Express look like a snail caucus.

Aside from fulfilling their intended duties of communication to the fullest, cell phones now are widely used for more than just communication. They are now cameras, mp3 players and even personal computers. A cell phone user can be entertained for the length of a lithium battery from one little phone.

More so with girls than boys, cell phones have become very popular tools for communication, more specifically, the text message function. Like MSN or ICQ, (two instant messaging computer programs) text messaging is used on phones the same way as is done so from computers. There are countless acronyms like LOL and BRB ("laugh out loud" and "be right back") which are used very proficiently in the course of a text conversation. Text messaging is in truth becoming more efficient than actual speaking. Some people can type faster than they can speak, and through typing, they can edit it to be a more meaningful message. Rituals are forming where a regular nightly text can replace a kiss goodnight or even a sexy wink from a girlfriend. Unlike Face Book and Chatango, cell phones allow you to define exactly who you communicate with, instead of being assailed by any regular Joe at random. As long as you don't spread your phone number publicly, the content of your cell phone related communications will largely reflect your personal life; you only have to answer the calls you want.

Metcalfe's law refers to when a social network, like telephones, increases in size, and the utility of being in the network increases proportionally. However some say that when social networks grow to a certain size, the cons can start outweighing the pros. This can be seen with cell phones in terms of telemarketers or even prank callers, but these few cons seem but small prices to pay in light of the pros.

Face Book also is also subject to this inverted law when people similar to the bully’s from Chatango for one reason or another decide to be hateful towards one another which results in threats, spamming, and a slew of other uncoothe activities, the most severe of which; being hacked.

Being hacked is the digital equivalent of being assaulted. Verbal bully's may exist to attack your ego, but the rare dog with a bite bigger than its bark comes in form of hackers. A hacker is someone with incredible knowledge of the functions of the technology we use in our social networks and they use this to steal information from us, or if they want, destroy our very existence within them. They are like the superheroes and villains of our social networks involving technology.

Chatango is perhaps the best model we can use for judging the validity of an inverted Metcalfe's law. Though Chatango functions as a vast group of defined networks like the anime chat box among many other chat boxes, each defined network is more or less a melting pot of whoever happens to be on that site, and as my observations have revealed, form a rainbow effect, bringing out users of all backgrounds and persuasions which quickly creates chaos. There is some sanity among this chaos, and if you  have the patience you might find Chatango valuable in some way, or as i have explained, you might hate everyone in it for being so annoying.

To conclude everyone usually finds what they are looking for in a social network, aside from those cons which exist inevitably in all our daily activities. The road which these networks will take us on depends on far too many variables to predict what its results may be. Like the limits of the supernet because of the Internet's diversity, the diversity of how these social networks are used combined with the progression of technology will make for a diverse progression of social networks and their influences on its users. I can envision a pair of glasses which can project holographic images of your friends heads floating around you or "lol" replacing actual laughter, but none can say for sure what the effects of a social network will be without first examining why and how it is used, which is incredibly varied. But usually, as I have discussed, people tend to get what they take; the people themselves cause the influence, the technology is merely the facilitator. The only single influence that can be described from the effect of a social network is the mixing of culture. As for what trends or supernets will thrive or vanish, only time can truly tell.


Mein Nick bin ich! Nicknames in a German Forum on Eating Disorders, Stommel, Wyke, JWG-Universitat Frankfurt/Main.

Facebook, Defined Networks, and the Inverse of Metcalfe’s Law, Scott Karp

Signals in Social Supernets, Judith Donath, MIT Media Lab.

Whose Space? Differences Among Users and Non-Users of Social Network Sites ,Eszter Hargittai, Communication Studies and Sociology,Northwestern University .

The Rules of Beeping: Exchanging Messages Via Intentional “Missed Calls” on Mobile Phones, Jonathan Donner, Technology for Emerging Markets Group Microsoft Research India.

I’d like to know what you get for a grade on your paper if you dont mind sharing that info . . .

im guessing il get a B… i didnt really over exert myself and it was kind of written and completed in less than 24 hours.

i do my best work under pressure but there is always left a certain lacking or wanting for my full effort.

one time i spent a month working on an essay, made it perfect, then got accused of plagarism.

costing has always been the easiest way of doing things anyway, but i still feel that there is enough content in this essay to merit a read.

what mark would you give me?

because i like the subject, an A

this makes me happy :smiley:

c+ :cry:

he said i was hasty!!! and that my contention was inadequatley explored!!!

he used the word ramifications!!!

but he also missed the general aim of my essay… i tried to emphacize that it is the user that dictates the experience… he seemed to think that my general contention was that the pros out weigh the cons… THAT WAS NOT MY CONTENTION!!! DAMMMIT!!!

It’s hard for me to grade your paper without knowing the the assignment. What were you supposed to do?

I’d probably give your organization and writing style a B or C, though. A few things I can comment on right now:

Your introductory paragraph doesn’t grab me, and it jumps right into the subject matter. Write a few catchy sentences that make me want to read the paper and let me prepare for the content; don’t jump into it in the third sentence. Use your imagination…be witty, be humorous, be interesting.

Don’t ever use the world plethora again. Especially not in the first sentence.

Your intro and conclusion don’t mirror each other enough, which is probably a product of putting content in your introduction.

Don’t ever start a conclusion with, “in conclusion” or “to conclude” ever again. It’s a turn off. The reader sees ‘conclusion’ and shuts down…ease 'em out of your world slowly.

I see your “the user dictates the experience” argument, but I also see how your teacher saw the pros and cons argument. Be more explicit in what you’re trying to accomplish in your intro, reiterate it periodically, and certainly do it again in the conclusion (which you did).

Get a proofreader. Any teacher who accuses your paper of being too perfect is insane…I saw many typos and gramatical errors, and that’s more distracting than thinking about potential plagiarism.

Talk about what you know. Why didn’t you mention ILP?

It’s very conversational, and switches between grammatical person a lot (I think, if you, they are). Pick one and go with it.

You define facebook after you already spoke about it for a paragraph.

Anyway…I think you know what you wanted to say. I think after a revision or two you could’ve had a solid A paper. Your writing style isn’t bad…it’s certainly above average.

I’m not an english major or anything, but I love the fiddly bits of language. When you’re reading someone who really knows how to manipulate a sentence, you can glean so much more meaning than just what’s written. I used to hate grammar and all that, but I’ve since changed my tune; I still don’t know all the names and rules for things, but I seem to have an innate sense of grammar, even on the trickier things like correct use of semicolons!

out of all the words in my word plethora, plethora is my favorite… it has the pretentious ring of a synical basterd. its perfect

i thank you for your response…

I know what you mean when you say a well constructed sentence leads to a more meaning read. Like i mentioned it was done in haste… Actually only recently have i changed my grammatical tune… i now seem to feel that writing something with shitty grammar or too many careless mistakes is worse than not writing it at all…

i’ll keep your advice in mind… though i like to be a bit corney here and there for its own sake, i also feel grammar is one of my strong suits.

(my professor found a plethora of errors) i simply did not have the time for a real proof read… (i’m a procrastinating basterd)

but in my defense (outside of the essay) ILP is to informal to trigger any urgency for perfect grammar on my part… though you would think i would do my best, i’m actually quite efficent (lazy).

so forgive me for not proof reading this post, but anything beyond the realm of trivial communication will have my utmost care; sometimes when i go back and read myself there are so many errors it sounds stupid… (not good)

p.s the paper was completed in under 12 hours…

Gah, the p word…it’s like kryptonite.

I had an english teacher who told us never to use that word and to avoid passive voice like the plague.

its a cross between a joke and synicism…

the proferror is a retired and his experience is incredibly vast. its also a very small class so i often find myself conversing with him and debating with other class members…

most of the class is somewhat of a shy nature and tend not to express their ideas well…

this resultsin myself and a few others usually being the ones to stab at his questions…

humor is appreciated as it is a 2 and a half hour long class, so things become slightly informal…

all we do is sit around and talk about how the media effects a population… (more or less).

it is a history class on mass media in Canada, and all we have to do is read common sense articles…

p.s the originl reason i used the word plethora the most amongst my plethora of words, is because it was used as a joke in the film “the three amigoes

if anyone can appreciate such humor, it’s him.

in what context… formal essay?

i also write prose… (the fictional kind)

what would she/he have said about passive voice then?

He said not to use it ever. It is sometimes hard to avoid, though.

I think passive voice is useful in prose to establish a converstational tone, though. Your characters shouldn’t speak in perfect English.

aye’ they neer’ do

but i’m slightly confused… i’be been mullling the ideas of writing styles over in my head and i keep confusing myself about how a narrater should narrate…

should I say “sally shocked hrerself”

or “Sally got a shock”

i am confuse…