A social networking service (also social networking site or social media) is an online platform which people use to build social networks or social relationships with other people who share similar personal or career interests, activities, backgrounds or real-life connections.
Social networking services vary in format and the number of features. They can incorporate a range of new information and communication tools, operating on desktops and on laptops, on mobile devices such as tablet computers and Smartphone. They may feature digital photo/video/sharing and diary entries online (blogging). Online community services are sometimes considered social-network services by developers and users, though in a broader sense, a social-network service usually provides an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Defined as “websites that facilitate the building of a network of contacts in order to exchange various types of content online,” social networking sites provide a space for interaction to continue beyond in person interactions. These computers mediated interactions link members of various networks and may help to both maintain and develop new social and professional relationships
Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, digital photos and videos, posts, and to inform others about online or real-world activities and events with people in their network. While in-person social networking – such as gathering in a village market to talk about events – has existed since the earliest development of towns, the web enables people to connect with others who live in different locations, ranging from across a city to across the world. Depending on the social media platform, members may be able to contact any other member. In other cases, members can contact anyone they have a connection to, and subsequently anyone that contact has a connection to, and so on. The success of social networking services can be seen in their dominance in society today, with Facebook having a massive 2.13 billion active monthly users and an average of 1.4 billion daily active users in 2017. LinkedIn, a career-oriented social-networking service, generally requires that a member personally know another member in real life before they contact them online. Some services require members to have a preexisting connection to contact other members.
The main types of social networking services contain category places (such as age or occupation or religion), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and a recommendation system linked to trust. One can categorize social-network services into four types:
socializing social network services used primarily for socializing with existing friends (e.g., Facebook)
Online social networks are decentralized and distributed computer networks where users communicate with each other through internet services.
networking social network services used primarily for non-social interpersonal communication (e.g., LinkedIn, a career- and employment-oriented site)
social navigation social network services used primarily for helping users to find specific information or resources (e.g., Good reads for books)
Most popular social networking sites by country
The potential for computer networking to facilitate newly improved forms of computer-mediated social interaction was suggested early on. Efforts to support social networks via computer-mediated communication were made in many early online services, including Usenet, ARPANET, LISTSERV, and bulletin board services (BBS). Many prototypical features of social networking sites were also present in online services such as America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe, ChatNet, and The WELL.
Early social networking on the World Wide Web began in the form of generalized online communities such as Theglobe.com (1995), Geocities (1994) and Tripod.com (1995). Many of these early communities focused on bringing people together to interact with each other through chat rooms and encouraged users to share personal information and ideas via personal web pages by providing easy-to-use publishing tools and free or inexpensive web space. Some communities – such as Classmates.com – took a different approach by simply having people link to each other via email addresses. PlanetAll started in 1996.
In the late 1990s, user profiles became a central feature of social networking sites, allowing users to compile lists of “friends” and search for other users with similar interests. New social networking methods were developed by the end of the 1990s and many sites began to develop more advanced features for users to find and manage friends. Open Diary, a community for online diarists, invented friends-only content and the reader comment, two features of social networks important to user interaction.
Web-based social networking services make it possible to connect people who share interests and activities across political, economic, and geographic borders.
Through e-mail and instant messaging, online communities are created where a gift economy and reciprocal altruism are encouraged through cooperation. Information is suited to a gift economy, as information is a nonrival good and can be gifted at practically no cost. Scholars have noted that the term “social” cannot account for technological features of the social network platforms alone. Hence, the level of network sociability should determine by the actual performances of its users. According to the communication theory of uses and gratifications, an increasing number of individuals are looking to the Internet and social media to fulfill cognitive, affective, personal integrative, social integrative, and tension free needs. With Internet technology as a supplement to fulfill needs, it is in turn affecting everyday life, including relationships, school, church, entertainment, and family. Companies are using social media as a way to learn about potential employees’ personalities and behavior. In numerous situations, a candidate who might otherwise have been hired has been rejected due to offensive or otherwise unseemly photos or comments posted to social networks or appearing on a newsfeed.
Facebook and other social networking tools are increasingly the aims of scholarly research. Scholars in many fields have begun to investigate the impact of social networking sites, investigating how such sites may play into issues of identity, politics, privacy, social capital, youth culture, and education. Research has also suggested that individuals add offline friends on Facebook to maintain contact and often this blurs the lines between work and home lives. According to a study in 2015, 63% of the users of Facebook or Twitter in the USA consider these networks to be their main source of news, with entertainment news being the most seen. In the times of breaking news, Twitter users are more likely to stay invested in the story. In some cases when the news story is more political, users may be more likely to voice their opinion on a linked Facebook story with a comment or like, while Twitter users will just follow the sites feed and/ or retweet the article.
According to Boyd and Ellison’s (2007) article, “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life”, social networking sites share a variety of technical features that allow individuals to: construct a public/semi-public profile, articulate a list of other users that they share a connection with, and view their list of connections within the system. The most basic of these are visible profiles with a list of “friends” who are also users of the site. In an article entitled “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” Boyd and Ellison adopt Sunden’s (2003) description of profiles as unique pages where one can “type oneself into being”. A profile is generated from answers to questions, such as age, location, interests, etc. Some sites allow users to upload pictures, add multimedia content or modify the look and feel of the profile. Others, e.g., Facebook, allow users to enhance their profile by adding modules or “Applications”. Many sites allow users to post blog entries, search for others with similar interests and compile and share lists of contacts. User profiles often have a section dedicated to comments from friends and other users. To protect user privacy, social networks typically have controls that allow users to choose who can view their profile, contact them, add them to their list of contacts, and so on.
There is a trend towards more interoperability between social networks led by technologies such as OpenID and OpenSocial. In most mobile communities, mobile phone users can now create their own profiles, make friends, participate in chat rooms, create chat rooms, hold private conversations, share photos and videos, and share blogs by using their mobile phone. Some companies provide wireless services that allow their customers to build their own mobile community and brand it; one of the most popular wireless services for social networking in North America and Nepal is Facebook Mobile.