25 perspectives on social networking June 1, 2007Posted by Malene Charlotte Larsen in Social Networking.
Last night I was out giving one of my Arto-lectures on a school in Aalborg. This is always a nice input in everyday academic life making me see new approaches to social networking. The comments and questions from the people in the audience, who were mainly school teachers and principals, made me think of the many different ways to view social networking sites.
Therefore, here are twenty-five perspectives on online social networking:
- The consumer perspective
Social networking sites are money-making machines creating a need for added value among young people causing them to spend all their pocket money on extra features such as VIP profiles, widgets, gifts for friends and so on.
- The youth perspective
Social networking sites are places that help young people be young and let them “practice” youth. Therefore, the sites are mainly a reflection of youth culture.
- The friendship perspective
Social networking sites are places where young people can maintain and nurse their existing (offline) friendships and create new (online) friendships.
- The identity perspective
Social networking sites are spaces for identity construction. Here, young people are continuously constructing, re-constructing and displaying their self-image and identity. Also, the network sites make them co-constructors of each other’s identities.
- The body and sex perspective
Social networking sites are sexual playgrounds for young people where they portray themselves in a provocative or soft porn-style manner. It is all about appearance and body making the youngsters superficial and shallow.
- The paedophile and predator perspective
Social networking sites are an eldorado for paedophiles and predators who want to harm young people. The people behind the sites are not in control of safety and do not put enough effort into keeping predators out of the sites.
- The bullying perspective
Social networking sites are places where young people bully and threaten each other and the sites are reinforcing and urging bullying between young people.
- The reassurance perspective
Social networking sites are forums for reassurance and confirmatory messages between young people constantly reminding them that they are all right and someone likes them.
- The genre perspective
Social networking sites are places where young people imitate and copy different genres, e.g. fashion magazines, music videos, song lyrics, commercials etc. which can be found in their profile texts.
- The branding perspective
Social networking sites are places where young people learn the mechanism of branding and learn to sell and brand themselves in a positive manner.
- The network perspective
Social networking sites are places where young people learn the crucial importance of being able to network which they can benefit from in their future professional life.
- The love perspective
Social networking sites allow young people to express themselves in a loving manner, thus creating a space for a love discourse that do not exist outside cyberspace.
- The source critique perspective
Social networking sites force young people to be sceptical of what they see and read online. They know that people can create faker profiles which make them extra aware of the identity of the people they communicate with.
- The sincerity perspective
Social networking sites make young people present themselves in a sincere manner in order to avoid being mistaken for a faker. This also creates a sincerity discourse among the users and people who do not follow this are disciplined.
- The democratic perspective
Social networking sites are places that allow young people to have a voice in society. Here, they can be heard and express their opinions.
- The materialistic perspective
Social networking sites are all about materialism and about having the right brands. Youngsters need to be successful with the right clothes and things in order to be accepted on social networking sites.
- The language perspective
Social networking sites aggravate the written language of young people. They develop bad habits of misspelling on purpose, which makes them unable to write correctly. On the other hand, their online language is really creative and they do know how to tell right from wrong.
- The public perspective
Social networking sites are “open diaries” of young people, but they do not think about the fact that the whole world can read their text and see their pictures online.
- The surveillance perspective
Social networking sites are surveillance. Everything young people write online are saved and can be used (against them) by marketing people, future employers and so on.
- The group work perspective
Social networking sites reinforce group work mechanism and young people often work together on profiles and are often willing to help each other.
- The time consuming perspectives
Social networking sites are places where young people spend way to much time preventing them from preforming healthy spare time activities such as sports and outdoor time.
- The anti-social perspective
Social networking sites make young people anti-social and incapable of communication with others face to face. They loose important social competences.
- The social perspective
Social networking sites make young people more social and help them communicate with others. Especially, the sites help youngsters cope with shyness or loneliness.
- The generation-gap perspective
Social networking sites are creating a greater gap between young people and adults such as their parents and teachers who do not understand the youngsters’ need to be online all the time.
- The learning perspective
Social networking sites are places where young people gain important IT competences such as HTML design, layout and graphics.
I have touched upon many of these perspectives during my research, but some of the views are still to be explored. However, I must say that I certainly do not agree with all of the mentioned perspectives, but some of them do represent the opinions (or prejudices) I hear when I am out giving lectures to adults.
Can anyone think of other perspectives?