Web 2.0 has changed the way we (users) look at the internet and its uses. The World Wide Web is no longer a place just for retrieving information, but is a place to interact with other users while being able to add one’s own flare. According to O’Reilly (2005), “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.” To use and view the internet as a platform helps us (the users) work with the internet to receive its full potential rather than fighting, it as O’Reilly says. Web 2.0 is based on user generated programming, allowing users to not only find information but to add information and interact as well. These concepts of user generated content has allowed the internet to evolve and change the web culture creating tools like social networking sites, video sharing, blogs and wikis. Due to the constant updates, keyword search, and inter-linking of web sites, more and more people are learning to love the internet and appreciate what they can do on this new platform. More and more, people are realizing Facebook has started a cultural revolution in the way people now communicate and reach each other.
One of the most popular things on web 2.0 are social networking sites. On these sites people can connect to friends, share photos, and talk to each other, among many other things. The most popular social networking site on the internet today is Facebook. It’s combinations of many Web 2.0 functions has made it user friendly and current. Facebook was created by a man named Mark Zuckerberg, a former student at Harvard University. Zuckerberg started this project solely for the use of Harvard students to interact with each other. According to Michael Hirschen (2007), Facebook was created to “allow students not only to gawk at one another's photos but also to flirt, network, interact.” When the spread of this program reached to half the student body in about two weeks, people wanted more. People all around the Boston area asked for access. Soon other colleges followed. After four months, Facebook was added to thirty other college networks and in the year to follow anybody with a valid email could join. This is one reason Facebook grew exponentially.
Another reason that Facebook is such a popular social networking site is due to the fact that it incorporates so many Web 2.0 features/ applications. One of its original features is the profile. On the profile, members can list things like their favorite books, movies, and television shows. Also they have the option to put their contact information along with religion and age. By doing this, it lets other members or your friends know a little more about you and what you are like. On Facebook, you can add friends who you think you would like to get to know or already have a relationship with. Facebook has an application called “The Friend request”. After becoming friends with someone, you can then start commenting on their profile “Wall” about their pictures and the experiences you have with them. This part of the web site allows people to interact with one another on an online basis. This new type of online communication is leading to the use of new Web 2.0 applications and is changing the way that people now communicate. Facebook has recently added picture sharing, journals (blogs), music sharing, and video sharing in order to increase usage and user volume. These are just a few examples of applications Facebook has to offer. According to Curry, Kiddle, Markatchev, Simmons, and Tan (2008), “as of April 2008 the number of applications has increased to over 22,000.” This gives us a clear example of the power that Facebook has as a social networking site.
There are many different types of uses for Facebook. The majority of its uses are the same depending on the age demographic using it. According to insidefacebook.com there are thirty three million users in the United States as of September 2008. Of these users the females outnumber the males in any age demographic. At first, Facebook was completely a college based website. Now that it is open to anybody with a valid email, this breakdown has changed. The non-college age groups are increasingly growing in Facebook memberships. Even though ages 18-25 still hold fifty two percent of U.S. Users, the teen (ages 13-17) and the adult users (ages 35-54) have been increasing in extraordinary amounts. Most of the common uses in all age groups are to connect with friends. This changes in degrees, where the older generation is not looking to connect with new friends but to stay connected with old ones. Also some members of Facebook ages 35-54 are just looking for ways to reconnect to their past. The teens are using Facebook for all sorts of things, from their many applications like “Hot or Not” to playing games and instant messaging on the site. This all factors into how Facebook is changing the way people are communicating and are using the Web 2.0 as a platform.
This new way of communicating online through social networking sites has developed many beneficial qualities. People from all over the world are joining Facebook and other social networking sites for the purpose of “Social Searching” (Joinson, 2008). This “Social Searching” allows a person to find and interact with people online that they have met offline. According to Joinson (2008), “Social networks serve a number of functions in offline life –for instance, providing social and emotional support, information resources and ties to other people.” These bonds of friends give the feeling or sense of community to its users. By doing this, Facebook allows its members to confide in each other and further progress the system.
One of the main reasons that I have observed why people join and use Facebook is to stay connected. Due to the addition of some Facebook applications, it has been made possible for a user to communicate with a buddy from far distances and to share similar experiences that they would in a face-to-face interaction. This only generates the popularity of Facebook now that it has gone international. Facebook users take advantage of the technology they have and are now able to leave video notes on their friend’s walls. Facebook has not only positively affected people’s social abilities but has been able to reach the minds of young adults everywhere. Due to Facebook’s success it has drawn the attention of many large and important profit and nonprofit organizations. On Facebook, these organizations can reach users and receive more participants and feedback than ever before. Over this past year, there were many new applications added to help influence youth voters to get out there and voice their opinions. This has shown a clear effect on youth voter turnouts. According to Bode (2008), “Various types of Facebook behavior have clear and signiﬁcant eﬀects on several types of positive oﬄine political participation.” Through Facebook and other social networking sites it seems that people are raising their “Social Capital”. In 1995 Robert Putnam published a groundbreaking and innovative essay on social capital: “Bowling Alone”. Putnam (1995) explained that the concept of social capital consists of “features of social life - net- works, norms, and trust - that enable participants to act together more eﬀectively to pursue shared objectives” (pp.664-665). This is seen at the core of Facebook; bonds are built, and users interact together to create content on the site. We are now seeing more and more positive attributes that come from Facebook, but that is not always the case.
Facebook is not a free secure online playground for a user to go and interact with friends. It holds some of your real life personal information. Just as in the real world, there are predators online. Sexual predators are using Facebook to lure in their prey of younger children. With the profile application, it makes it easy for predators to hide who they really are so that they seem to be friendly people. Facebook has done some things to try and prevent this. It has “reached an agreement with 49 state attorneys general to institute a broad set of principles intended to protect young users from online predators and inappropriate material” (Stone, 2008). This helps ensure the safety of young users on Facebook.
Another deterrent to Facebook is its policy and information holdings. With all the personal information you put on to sign up for Facebook, your identity and information is ripe for the picking. Anything you post on Facebook, such as pictures, writings, and video are all now owned by Facebook (Monterio, 2008). Also if you ever want to terminate your account, Facebook holds your information in case you feel in the future that you would like to reactivate it. Most people have no idea that this is the case, but if you look under the terms and agreements when you first sign up it clearly states this fact.
One of the major problems facing Facebook is identity. Many users are masking their information so that they seem more appealing to the general public of Facebook. This is seen more often in teens ages 13-17 rather than in adults and young adults ages 28-54. People altar their image on Facebook in order to be someone they are not and conform to the stereotypes of the offline world. This is a reaction to judgmental attitudes of others received in offline experiences. This directly effects Facebook users by exposing them in awkward situations. For example, if you were chatting with someone on Facebook for blind date... When you met this person all the nice qualities that you had liked about them were false and inaccurate. This would cause for an awkward relationship and a weird summer.
This is why in recent times, employers and law enforcement use Facebook to their advantage. In most major firms or large corporations, there are people employed to do a background check on its applicants. If you have any information you do not want people to see on your Facebook account, you have to privately filter out your friends with a privacy setting. Even still, there have been many instances where people have not received the job they wanted because of unflattering pictures on their profile. Government and law enforcement agencies are now using Facebook to find clues about many criminal activities. People or friends might leave photos or information on your profile that can link you to information or the actual crime.
Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook are creating all kinds of changes in the offline world. This new type of communicating with one another on the internet is becoming the norm. The virtual world is leaking into our real lives. This new Dialectical world is changing not only the way we communicate but the way we are now receiving information. Before there was only one way communication when it came to marketing and politics, but now because of Web 2.0 applications people are becoming part of the system. In the future we will not be able to describe certain parts of life without mentioning the web; it will be like explaining the human race without talking about a man or a woman.
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Putnam, Robert D., 2000, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.
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