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Social Networks: Changing Our Lives -for Better or Worse?

whatissocialnetworking.com | June 2013


According to the latest statistics, there are 1.2 billion Facebook users worldwide. On average, 190 million tweets are sent out on Twitter every day. The total number of new “unique” YouTube users per month is around 490 million.


The minute by minute figures may be even more surprising. Over 3000 photos are uploaded to Flickr every minute. Over 7500 new searches are conducted using LinkedIn and over 1000 people visit Pinterest every 60 seconds.


Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn and Pinterest are all websites that can be classified as social networks. People use these networks to socialize, to be entertained and to get information.  It’s not just individuals who use the social networks. They are used by businesses, politicians, journalists and celebrities. You can honestly say that social networking has changed our lives. Some of the changes are good, but it can be argued that some are not so good.


It is good to be able to keep in touch with friends and family around the world. It is good for businesses to be able to reach people through what is basically free advertising.  Journalists can reach millions of people and get important information out quickly. This is also a new outlet for severe weather alerts, Amber Watches and other public service announcements that are only helpful if they reach a large number of people quickly.


When it comes strictly to entertainment, the social networks provide a great deal of free entertainment. People play games on Facebook. They watch videos, even complete movies on YouTube. They can enjoy a symphony orchestra from the privacy of their own homes, tour art galleries in distant locations and watch sporting events of all kinds.


The networks are also a source of free information. On Pinterest, you can find recipes, crafts and how-to-guides for many home projects. Facebook users share this kind of information as well. If you need to do something, but you don’t know how, you can visit one of the social networks and find an expert on just about any subject you can think of.


People who need jobs and businesses that need employees connect on LinkedIn. There is some debate concerning just how effective LinkedIn might be for people in the job market. But at the very least, LinkedIn, Indeed and similar sites have provided new resources for employers and prospective employees. The help wanted ads are not always enough.


As is usual for anything good, there is a flip side to the coin. A variety of concerns have been generated by the growing use of these networks. Many of the concerns revolve around children.  The rules say you have to be 13 to use Facebook. Yet there isn’t much to stop a 9, 10, 11 or 12 year old from creating a page. According to a recent study conducted in the UK, 28% of 9-10 year olds and 59% of 11-12 year olds participate in social networking.


The risk to the kids is exposure to age-inappropriate material and of being contacted by pedophiles. Parents need to be more alert than ever before if they want to protect their children.  Another risk to kids and adults alike has to do with obesity and inactivity. There is a definite connection between today’s obesity epidemic and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Many people are sitting in front of a computer or laptop when they could be doing something active.


There are also concerns about information overload, online bullying, repetitive motion injuries and skin damage caused by the heat of laptops. One of the worst consequences of the social networks may be the lack of normal healthy social interactions.


So, what is the future of social networking? Is it here to stay or will its popularity decline in the coming years? Do businesses need to start taking advantage of social networks in order to remain competitive?  No one has a crystal ball. Even the social media experts disagree on where Facebook is heading. Some think it is spiraling downward out of control while others think the website will continue to grow and remain popular for years to come.


Either way, it is safe to say that businesses can profit from the social networking sites and advertisers are certainly smart to take advantage of what the networks have to offer: the people who will buy what they have to sell.