What the Heck is Bebo and Cyworld?

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illustration of the various Social Network Sites that have existed since 1997 looks like a list of irrelevant, outdated, and unknown sources of networking (Fig. 1, p.212).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 mollynolte

MSTPC grad student scheduled to graduate in May 2017. Lover of the outdoors, my dogs, autumn, yoga, and travel.

Posted on November 6, 2016, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Excellent point. I agree that we need to make note of how quickly things change but, perhaps more importantly, we need to have more pieces like this that historicize what has been around before. That way we can attempt to understand why some sites work and others don’t and also where they work. We have to remember there are tons of social media channels that aren’t available in the USA.

    And in the meantime, we have mobile technologies changing the way we even interact with the internet. I’m typing this comment on my laptop, but I could easily do so from my phone or ipad. Yet I hardly ever login to Twitter via the website. Apps are making things easier and, as you say, things have changed dramatically since 1997.

    I’ve not watched Black Mirror but I think its episodes all center on technology in a creepy Twilight Zone kind of way. Have you seen it?

    • Black Mirror is incredible. It does center on technology and plays with it and the human experience in surprisingly insightful and disturbing way. I highly recommend it!

  2. You raise some great points, Molly. I do agree that, with all things, there is a concern for abuse and mistreatment. Our online personas are just as real as who we portray in person and that means that they are just as open to deception and trickery. I like the fact that you called the piece irrelevant. So much of scholarly research is bound to its time and place. When dealing with the ever evolving world of social media, that method of analysis and research cannot keep up with the changes and innovation going on every day.

    As someone not completely up to date on the latest trends, topics, and taglines, I depend on social media to fill in the blanks for me. Like the Mannequin challenge.

  3. Molly,

    As always, your response is thought-provoking. I’m glad you mentioned Catfish (the show) because I was totally going to bring it up! I think the “phishing” and “catfish” ideas prove the “crap detection” necessity when using the internet. Yes, sometimes the schemes are incredibly well executed and extremely difficult to identify as such; but, more often, if one approaches everything with a healthy amount of skepticism, the lies usually become quite apparent. Maybe it just comes easily for me since I am already a skeptic and untrusting in general ;), but it often seems like common sense.
    Seriously, you should watch the show – you’ll be shaking your head, unable to imagine why anyone would be so naive and gullible to believe some of these things!

  4. It was interesting that the article mentioned phishing in connection with social media. Most people think phishing is e-mail-based and don’t think of social media as a vector. My company actually blocks social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook (as well as e-mail websites like Gmail and Hotmail) on company devices–not because they are worried about people wasting time, but rather because they are concerned that employees will get phished or infect their company computers with viruses, which could spread to the rest of the network easily. They don’t block these sites on personal devices using the Guest wireless network,despite having the technology available to do so.

    Crap detection is essential, but it’s amazing to me how some people just haven’t developed it–especially people are otherwise intelligent and seem fairly comfortable with technology.

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