Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are among the fastest growing businesses on the Internet today. As more and more Americans sign up and create networks, sociologists have begun to view these sites as powerful research tools. By giving a visible form to the bonds between people, social networking sites allow researchers to investigate better than ever before how we are all tied together.
Recent studies suggest that online networking offers many benefits to its participants, from an increased sense of community to better physical health. Studies also suggest that online networkers tend to have as many or more friends—both online and offline—as those who avoid the Internet. The studies suggest that people do not replace their face-to-face friendship networks with online ones. Instead, they create new networks, often of old and distant friends, that increase their levels of socialization. Some researchers question the value of these expanded networks, though, especially when coupled with the loss of privacy that can result from online activities.
However, not all social networking sites are created equal. Studies have found that the populations of sites like Facebook and MySpace differ in terms of social class and race. One researcher likens the differences between the sites to the division of a city into neighborhoods: people are drawn to those sites where they will find people most like themselves.
- ‘Flocking’ Behavior Lands on Social Networking Sites
An overview of several recent studies about social networking, this article highlights both positive and negative effects of social networking. (Source: USA Today, September 28, 2009)
- Face-to-Face Socializing Starts with a Mobile Post
This article profiles Foursquare, one of a growing number of social networking sites whose purpose is to bring people together face-to-face, not online. (Source: The New York Times, October 18, 2009)
- Does Your Social Class Determine Your Online Social Network?
This article investigates socioeconomic, gender, and racial traits of users of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and other social networking sites in search of common trends. (Source: CNN, October 14, 2009)
- Facebook, MySpace Divide along Social Lines
Based on interviews at a San Francisco high school, this NPR report investigates students’ perspectives on the differences between Facebook and MySpace. (Source: NPR, October 21, 2009)