Mar 1, 2010 Comments Off
This article is a larger compilation of articles and observations about social networking sites. Its main point according to its author is “to provide a conceptual, historical, and scholarly context for the articles in this collection” (211). The author, Danah Boyd, never comes to a singular conclusion, but instead uses the article as a medium to explore how the different social networking phenomenons influence us and connect us.
I’d like to begin first with the definition that Boyd offers for a social network:
“web-based services that allow individuals to:
- Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system
- Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection
- View and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system .” (211)
Her definition is relatively expansive, but emphasizes one point that reflects across the majority of social platforms that we use. That point is about “the list of other users with whom they share a connection.” In some of the websites that Boyd mentions such as MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook, the principle appears to revolve around maintaing connections, however frivolous, with those that you already know. The other functions such as meeting new people become secondary. The consequence of the authors argument is that the social networking mediums that we use to reach out to others stratify us in existing social groups. They do not allow entry for others, and while not a digital divide, it goes back to another author’s argument in spirit that the internet only serves as a means to transfer existing social inequalities onto the internet. I think that as a result, it is better to view virtual worlds/virtual realities as ways to meet new people because the definition that Boyd presents fails to accommodate this.
The article mentions how these social networking sites describe relationships as either “Friends, Contacts, or Fans”. This is significant to me because one of the things I wrote about in my paper was that the network society and information society are founded on the redefinition of classical concepts such as friendship. I think that in understanding friendship, one must understand that there are two tiers to friendship. One tier is the personal relationship that you form with a person as a result of shared experiences, honesty, and mutual bonding. The other is the internet friendship, which I view as secondary because it lacks the same emotional depth as other friendships. Personally, I view myself as having a handful of best friends, a larger group of good friends, and then the largest circle of acquaintances (I’m not including family members for the sake of simplicity). On Facebook, I have 219 friends as of today. I actually prefer to remove people than add them, but that is for another reason entirely. However, I was talking to a friend at home, and I told him that I now have a goal to drop 46 friends to get to 173, which is the number he has now. I am offended by the two tiered concept of friendship, and my goal to shed friends is mostly a response to how facebook considers people as friends, even when they are not. I want to let go of people who I have no common interests in, have no shared experiences, or have no mutual bonding with. I just don’t want to be that person with 1500 “friends” through a social networking system as defined by Boyd.