During the first decade of the twenty-first century, the phenomenon of social networking on the Internet exploded across the globe. Online social networking sites are websites that allow people to post personal information about themselves and to connect with people who have similar interests. It is a way of forming community, but a community exists online rather than in physical space. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, LinkedIn are examples of some of the most commonly used social networking sites.
Recents statistcs show that 75 percent of Internet users around the world use social networking sites to some extend and that 22 percent all the time spent online is spent on these sites. Of all the countries in the world, Italy is apparently the place where social networking is most popular. Italians spend an average of six and a half hours per month per person on social networking sites, followed by Australians, with an average time of just over six hours a month. In comparison, the Japanese are much less interested in social networking, spending an average of just two and a half hours per person per month on these sites. The global average is close to five and half hours per month. The social networking trend has increased among people of all ages.
The phenomenon of social networking sites may present unanticipated consequences for people’s lives in the future. The immense popularity of these sites is evidence that they contribute to users’ lives in positive ways, but there are drawbacks as well. Social networking sites allow people to broaden their social reach both personally and professionally. These sites allow users to stay in contact with friends and relatives and reconnect with old friends from the past. The sites also provide opportunities for people to connect with stranges in far-distant places who share similar interests or to seek support when undergoing difficulties such as a grave illness. In the business world, people use social networking sites to carry out business, pursue employment opportunities, or seek new business clients. Students all ages discuss homework assignments and future educational and career plans. Social networking sites eradicate the limits imposed by the physical world and make it possible to communicate and exchange information with people everywhere.
On the other hand, concers are growing about online social networking. As people spend more time interacting with each other online, they spend less time in face-to-face communication. Social networking can actually lead to separation as families and neighbors spend less time together while they are busy using the Internet. There are also potential risks. Social networking involves making personal information available online, which means that, unless the user is careful, anyone can have access to that information. Adolescents may be particulary susceptible to this danger. It is also impossible to know anyone’s true identity online. Acquaintances found on the Internet may not be who people think they are. The effects that social networking will have on our social relationships and sense of safety remain to be seen as the future unfolds.