What the Heck is Bebo and Cyworld?
Posted by mollynolte
It’s amazing to me that since “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship” (2008) was written, the world of social networking and Social Network Sites (SNS) have changed so dramatically. And considering the sites that have come, seen their heydey, and gone since 1997, it’s amazing how irrelevant these topics can become less than a decade later. For example, Boyd and Ellison’s illustration of the various Social Network Sites that have existed since 1997 looks like a list of irrelevant, outdated, and unknown sources of networking (Fig. 1, p.212). Out of all of the SNS listed, I recognized only seven out of the (I think) forty-two examples on the timeline, and that list is not an exhaustive list of all of the past or present Social Network Sites. It’s not wonder that the internet, social networking, and technical communication itself is so difficult to define: this seemingly limitless word constantly ebbs and flows, more or less unchecked, and essentially anything is possible within it.
The section Bridging Online and Offline Social Networks (p. 221) goes into detail about a lot of what my class peers have been discussing in past posts. As Boyd and Ellison point out, the beginning of Social Networking Sites created an online format for “real-life” friends to interact in a different way. Today, people form and maintain friendships that live exclusively online without having begun in a more tradition, face-to-face manner. As my colleagues have pointed out, there are online lives that occur independently from a person’s “real” life but that are considered just as qualifiable as their face-to-face or physical relationships.
While I have never experienced this phenomenon personally, that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that they exist. There is certainly enough evidence to suggest that virtual relationships can be just as meaningful as relationships and friendships that occur “in real life”. I use these terms lightly because many people in my generation, the so-called Millennials, have grown up online and are accustomed to maintaining an online persona.
Importantly, Boyd and Ellison also touch on the fact that “phishing” does occur in what is supposed to be a friendly environment. People take advantage of online users.
“In another study examining security issues and SNSs, Jagatic, Johnson, Jakobsson, and Menczer (2007) used freely accessible profile data from SNSs to craft a ‘‘phishing’’ scheme that appeared to originate from a friend on the network; their targets were much more likely to give away information to this ‘‘friend’’ than to a perceived stranger. Survey data offer a more optimistic perspective on the issue, suggesting that teens are aware of potential privacy threats online and that many are proactive about taking steps to minimize certain potential risks. Pew found that 55% of online teens have profiles, 66% of whom report that their profile is not visible to all Internet users (Lenhart & Madden, 2007). Of the teens with completely open profiles, 46% reported including at least some false information” (p. 222).
This evidence is troubling and it shows the risk involved is creating relationships online. I’ve never watched the show Catfish (MTV) which is a documentary style reality show that follows people who have been “catfished.” This happens when a person begins a romantic relationship online only to find out the person with whom they are virtually involved turns out to have lied about their identity.
I believe if Boyd and Ellison revisited their research they would find that many of the Social Network Sites visited are no longer in existence and come across as irrelevant to modern scholars. At least that’s how their research came across to me. While I appreciate their research and learning about the history of Social Networking according to them, I had a hard time relating to their subject matter since I’m unfamiliar with Cyworld, Bebo, Ryze, Fotoblog, Skyblog, Friendster, and the list goes on and on.
This point is important for scholars of technical communication. It’s vital for us as students to understand how quickly this world evolves and how we must keep a finger on the pulse in order to keep up and remain relevant.
About mollynolteMSTPC grad student scheduled to graduate in May 2017. Lover of the outdoors, my dogs, autumn, yoga, and travel.
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