Social network sites are avenues where people with similar opinions, beliefs, and political affiliations can connect with each other without physical presence. The sites have mobile versions to allow their users to access their sites while on their mobile phones. Social network sites are not only used to connect on a social level; but also as marketing tools by businesses. Despite advertising, social network sites are virtual markets such as Amazon.com and ebay.com. Networking is the chief function that these sites perform; however, recent studies show that this assumption is wrong. Networking refers to the connecting of individuals who were previously strangers. According to Haythornthwaite (126), this is not the case; social network sites connect people who are already part of a preexisting extended social network. A similar feature in majority social network sites are profiles. Profiles enable an individual to redefine themselves, and have a new identity if they so wish. A significant number of these social networking sites go to the extent of asking for a photo or an application that adds to your profile. A crucial issue that faces these SNSs (social network sites) is security and privacy. They have tackled the problem by allowing users to customize their privacy settings to control those who can view contents in their accounts.
Communities have been diversified around the world; some join clubs seeking a community within their interest. Others find different communities around the worldwide web that may interest them. Nevertheless, for many years many people differed if a social web or virtual web should classify as a community. Many have asked about one specific social site which is Face book. Is Facebook a community or not? It all depends on how the definition of a community. Gusfield (46) defined a community as the relationships that human beings create without reference to geographical location. Durheim (102) asserted that in modern society people tend to continually associate community with skills and interests, as opposed to locality. People use Facebook to connect and engage with each other on the areas of interest. It allows people to communicate effectively, and to express and share their common interests. Does Facebook bring people together? Yes, Even though, the online communities differ from the traditional sense, it does not mean that real people are not connecting, having conversations, sharing and learning in these virtual spaces. The networking aspect of Facebook is the most significant aspect because it fosters the growth of relationships between people with similar interests; therefore, Facebook is a community.
According to Lenhart&Madden (11), 22% of high school students visit social networking sites several times a day; this was according to the results conducted by Pew internet and American life. The same study indicated that students related better with the members of the faculty who had a Facebook accounts. In addition, Facebook offers bulletin boards and the choice of posting multimedia content as we as an email option. Facebook offers superior services to those offered by Blackboard because of the large virtual space of 1024 MB, which gives students an opportunity to upload several videos while making updates. Facebook fosters the sharing of ideas among students which is crucial to any student. It also offers teachers the opportunity to hold web-enhanced classes, as well as student support groups.
The constant interaction that comes from living in a community grows the relationships of the people involved. The interaction that comes from using Facebook develops social capital. The unique feature is that Facebook develops social capital at a faster and cheaper rate. In today’s world where people are busy with their lives and hardly have a moment to themselves, then Facebook gives them a chance to check on their friends without having to make a commute. Relationships that would have died due to increase labor mobility now have a chance thanks to the diverse applications and options that Facebook offers. High schools and colleges churn out a fresh batch of graduates every year. These students over the years have nurtured relationships with other students whom they leave behind; Facebook becomes an excellent tool for communication as well as develop social capital.
All members of the community have their fair share of problems and Facebook is not an exception. The Facebook community is a new and influential community growing at a vast speed, and a majority of people have Facebook accounts. Unfortunately, the euphoria that comes with anything new is costing some members dearly. Users tend to upload information about their whereabouts making them easier to track. This can result in insecurity and privacy issues; however, these are challenges that face any community online or otherwise.
The Internet is a breakthrough that changed everything socially, politically, economically, and more. It creates a potent weapon against anybody from public figures to the average person next door. Cases of defamation and slander are common. With the emerging of social networks, it builds a new style of a community that can be called a ‘virtual community’. According to The World Development Report 1998 claimed that the revolution in information and communication technologies “offers [developing countries] a chance to explore new avenues of communication as well as to improve on the old methods (Barabasi 2002). Through internet use, Facebook has by far surpassed other social networks with the insanely high number of users. The most prominent use of Facebook, is the easy way to keep in touch with friends who can be easily lost with time due to distance and busy schedules. However, with a social network with a click of a button one can keep in touch with friends who are thousands of miles away. This virtual community has revolutionized the way that people collaborate and communicate with each other. Another disadvantage is online abuse. Some users might harass others that they do not like for naïve or unknown purposes. They abuse the others because they are not scared of being caught or punished.
On the other hand, some people are of the opinion that Facebook is not a community. This is because,without it, they can still be part of a big community and keep in touch with friends and relatives. Facebook is different from other normal communities. It gathers people from all over the world, different social societies and backgrounds. On Facebook, one has options to keep your life (profile) private or public, which normal communities do not provide. In Facebook, there are no consequences to things they say or post other than reporting abuse, but the response rate is slow as well as limited as the users are spread throughout the world. There is no universal law on internet and cyber space crimes. In today’s world, if anyone wants to engage or learn and participate in a community, they must have Internet access. Facebook is the new tool for the upcoming communities.
Another factor that distinguishes Facebook from the conventional community, is that Facebook is a business that brings its owners millions of dollars in revenue. This is in contrast to the traditional community where people and the community enjoy a symbiotic relationship. In this relationship, the community and the people serve each other.
Facebook is a modern community that has all the dynamics of the traditional community. It is a community because it brings people together. It gives people an avenue to express themselves and to keep in touch with others. Businesses use Facebook as a marketing tool for their services because of the masses that Facebook has managed to gain. It is common for people to use the Facebook community to seek help such as donations for charitable organizations, organ donors and financial help all of which are common traits of a geographical community.