Social Networking: Friend or Foe?

| December 30, 2011

Contributing Author Dickson Igwe

Facebook and Twitter have barged into daily life, like two gunfighters bursting through salon doors in the old Wild West. These are two new players, and billion dollar organizations, that have added to the increasing intrusiveness of the internet in everyday existence. Two global, social networking hubs, add multibillion dollar US Corporations, or better termed digital and technological empires, that have today, become truly ubiquitous and omniscient.

FB and Twitter appear all pervasive on the CRT monitors, liquid crystal displays, and light emitting diodes of the world’s computers, digital networks, and telecommunications devices. On web sites of all types, the FB and Twitter insignias are commonplace, and allow for the sharing of web content with thousands of internet users at a mouse click.

Two commercial juggernauts pioneered by young ‘geeks’ or ‘digitally savvy nerds’ and ‘wunderkinds’  these 2000s, in the same way the founders of Microsoft and Apple began with an astonishingly valuable idea in the early 1980s. Facebook and Twitter have smashed onto the Information Super Highway, hijacked whole lanes, and are set to become increasingly vast and powerful as time proceeds. Yes, the US appears to possess an amazing pool of raw talent. The Hemispheres most powerful nation is an incubator, offering the world young digital and internet entrepreneurs who go on to change the way we think, live, work and play. The US appears to produce these geniuses and money making machines to a greater degree and extent than any other society.

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Your Internet service provider gives access to the internet, and when online Google may be your search engine of choice. But Facebook and Twitter are where the action is increasingly taking place, and where most computer time is spent. Actually, social networking has transformed the digital information super highway into a digital universe. This August 2011, and correct me if I am mistaken, most internet users use their Facebook or Twitter accounts more often than they do their regular email, or any other application on the mighty internet.

Businesses and organizations blocking local area network access, and even wide area network access, to social networking sites over their servers, cables and networks do this for good reason. Time spent on a digital social network during working hours is a waste of a business’s scarce resources. But these organizations are also simply acknowledging the pull power of social networking sites to take employees away from their regular tasks and duties. Social networking has become a core activity on the internet, central to how the internet is used by hundreds of millions of consumers.

Social networking’s attractiveness stems from the messaging type virtual community it creates, fosters and supports. It does this by offering users the ability to share with fellow users a wide array of online activity in real time. Those whose pages or portals you can access, you can further share news links, personal interests and hobbies,  add photos, music, jokes, to events, personal messages, and much more. At the click of a mouse, hundreds, and even thousands of users who can access your portal, receive anything you may wish to share. Social networking over the internet is a new global culture driven by the microchip and with a trajectory of its own.

There is more, social networking offers the user the ability to share various types of information on one single platform controlled by the proprietor company, a resource that is set to become even more ‘user friendly,’ and all pervasive as the microchip advances in processing speed, memory capacity, and complexity, in a bold new age of nanotechnology: the manufacture of products at the molecular level.

The social networking paradigm has profoundly influenced, in multiple ways, the social, economic, and political infrastructure of the world.  From the street riots in England’s cities, to the Arab Uprisings, and even US political campaigns, all have been deeply influenced by empowered people talking to one another, and to whole groups, on Facebook and Twitter using an array of devices. From simply promoting a business idea, to getting friends together for a night out, Facebook, Twitter, and the such, are becoming indispensable to how communities and societies function, work, and operate in the early 21st century.

Social networking is the one tool that has driven the globe to becoming a digital village, more than any other digital type technology this early 21st Century. Users plugged in to a social network can advance a cause or idea much more swiftly than any other type of method, and the sad riots in England are a lesson. Rioting on the British Streets are being termed the Blackberry riots, as young hoodlums are using Facebook and Twitter, coupled with smart phones in planning their unrelenting attacks on civility.

The latest digital devices and products, from the trendy I Pad to the pocket smart blackberry, even laptops and desktops with touch screens, all appear uniquely designed to cater for a new age of social interaction and networking driven by digitization.  Now, for those who state that they are going to ignore this new paradigm of science, and stay out of the social networking environment and universe, they soon realize that this is not an option.

It is similar to stating 15 years ago “I am not interested in getting an email account,’’ that would have kept you behind in myriad ways. Imagine stone-age man stating he was not interested in the plough and wheel; that would have kept back Western Civilization, period. And what would have happened had Gutenberg’s printing press been ignored during the Renaissance? It is not even worth thinking about. It’s the same with social networking.  It has arrived, whether we like it or not.

Change is here.  And it is manifested in a new digital environment where the latest in news information and local gossip goes viral before you can say ‘’ Jack Robinson.’’ Ignore this trend at your peril. One simply can no longer afford to bury one’s head in the sand. Social networking driven by the microchip is the technology of today.

Facebook for example plugs you into a virtual community, even society, of thousands.  Many of those on the network, old friends, you may have never met again, this side of Jordan.  It allows you to meet new friends and establish varied and satisfying relationships, as this user has both experienced and enjoyed.  Special events, birthdays, chit chat, messaging, photo albums, and now, even social email, all are available on a social networking portal and platform.

Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey

Unsurprisingly, the rewards for the creators of this paradigm have been staggering. As of July 2011, Facebook has more than 750 million users, and that is projected to reach a billion.  Today, Reuters reports that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, is worth a staggering 13.5 billion dollars and the company he founded is thought by some pundits to be worth as much as 100 billion dollars, with expected advertising revenues in 2011 of 4 billion.  Facebook is up there with Apple and GEC as a powerful corporate model for the USA; an innovative and creative global multinational.

Twitter, the tweeting social epiphany has the potential of connecting you or your business to hundreds of thousands of consumers and users at the click of a mouse: another astonishing reality. Twitter is said to be worth a much smaller 7 billion dollars, and its founder, Jack Dorsey, is a multi millionaire worth nearly half a billion dollars.

However, users who are part of the Twitter universe very soon understand twitter’s potency and pervasive hold.  Twitter is truly a social networking universe with the capability of offering its users undreamed of access to a world of information, interests, and even products and services.

But there is more.  For global, regional and local media, whether print, or online, and as is increasingly the case today,  print cum online, social networking brings readership and media company closer together to the mutual benefit of both. Most ‘information junkies’ follow both the online media and social networking sites for their news.

In fact, the truly savvy user gets more these days from the computer and similar digital device than television.  This is an epiphany television had better wake up to and adjust, or get buried and left behind.  Television is going to have to become social networking friendly in the near future with a TV Set that is center stage in the home with access to the various types of digital networking, probably from an I Pad type device that directs the set, such as the old remote once did. It is simply a question of time before TV is much more networking friendly, to the same extent as the I PAD.

Now, what about the drawbacks from social networking? Yes, there are some major dangers in this new world of the digital social network. First and foremost is the fact that companies such as Facebook and Twitter are not our friends.  They are businesses who sell our information to the highest bidder at a price. That is why they are worth billions and billions of dollars.  They are in essence databases that carry details of our personal lives and give access to all who may wish to take an interest.

Companies such as Facebook and Twitter are the biggest possessors of personal information on earth, offering what they hold on their databases to a variety of organizations, from the CIA and FBI, to the Department of Homeland Security and the United nations. They monitor our lifestyles and offer information on our buying habits, social patterns, demographics, location, and much more, to others for commercial gain. These companies are also a first port of call for the spy and terrorist.

It is silly to assume that anything on your portal or FB page is private. It isn’t and never will be.  Just like anything on a computer is available to the website you visit through the Internet Protocol Address, IPA. That is what Congressman Bob Weiner should have understood when he was caught in indiscretion on Twitter. He should have simply confessed everything from day one and moved on.  Nothing is hidden that is done on a social networking site.  To think so is foolishness.  Yes you can use an alias, but so what.  You are probably simply deceiving yourself. A satellite will locate you and your device with an array of scientific coordinates.

The golden rule remains: do not put anything on a site you do not want the world to know. It is amazing how indiscreet people can become when under the social networking trance. A terrorist would have no problem locating many a FB user who must inform everyone where they are at a point in time, or where they will be going on vacation, and even ridiculous information about travel plans and hotel menu.  This is simple narcissism, showing off, but dangerously so.

However, notwithstanding, whether you are a Government or private business, a charitable organization or church, social networking is not simply the future, it is the now. Ignore it at your peril!

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Category: Culture & Society

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