One of the subjects discussed by Helene in her textbook about computer literacy is social networks. Other authors have also discussed social networks, including its application and relevance to various contexts in the contemporary world. Although it is a widely applied concept, many people do not know exactly what social networks or social networking entails. However, the topic is wide and involves a diverse range of networking sites and media. Therefore, this essay attempts to provide a general overview of the concept based on the works of three different authors. This will include an exploration of the key characteristics of social networks as described by the authors, comparison of their points of convergence and divergence, and provision of an independent opinion about the three of them. Through this, it will be possible for the reader to get a general comprehension of the subject.
Social Networks from Different Perspectives
Liu, Ho, and Lu (2017) provide a definition of social networking services. The authors assert that internet services that enable users to conduct micro-blogging functions and to foster social interactions are referred to as social networks. Based on this definition, Liu et al (2017) conducted a literature review based study in which they aimed at determining the influence of the micro-blogging functions of social networks on different aspects of human life. The authors describe the impacts of social networks on factors such as politics, social relationships, health, public relations and journalism among others. Based on their literature review, the authors determine the impacts of social networks on such aspects quantitatively and eventually conclude that the impacts of social networks are dependent on the characteristics of each of the networks involved. They, therefore, say that different social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, impact people’s lives differently.
In fact, the information provided by Liu, Ho, and Lu has many implications to the conventional reader thus enriches the general resources available on social networks. However, the article includes few shortcomings, for example, the definition of social networking excludes essential features of social networks such as individuality. Similarly, the authors mention that social networking enables users to interact with others but fail to mention the extent of interaction, including the characteristics of those with whom one can interact. Based on many other articles and books on social networking, it should have been possible for the authors to provide a definition that encompasses the key features of social networks. Significantly, the key points made by the authors on the subject of social network impacts are, however, essential. For instance, this work could possibly change the implications of users who may be misinformed about the impacts of social networks on the lives of others. In particular, the authors, by describing the implications of social networks on various aspects of human life, imply that social networks affect every feature of life from politics to more personal matters like health and privacy.
Boyd and Ellison (2007) also provide an overview of social networks beginning with a distinctive definition and progressing into a description of various features of social networks. The definition of social networks as provided by Boyd and Ellison entails three key features, which include the ability to create a personal profile, capacity to select other users with whom to interact, and the opportunity to view and explore thoughts and ideas shared with others in their lists. The authors argue that the backbone of social networks is the personal profile that is created for interaction with others. Messaging and blogging capacities are described as key features in most social networks, with their capabilities ranging from instant actions to other timeline functioning depending on the social networks under use. In addition to the description of the social network features, Boyd and Ellison also discuss the history of social networks from their inception during the 1990s to the present day applications. The authors conclude by mentioning privacy concerns in the use of social networks.
In the article by Boyd and Ellison, much information can be extracted about social networks. The discussion is aimed at providing the uninformed reader with sufficient information to understand the basic concepts underlying social networks. From the definition, the authors seem to imply that social networks can be solely identified based on their characteristics. In other words, different goals are achievable through social networks, but all the goals are dependent on the capability of creating a personal profile. The authors also imply that without this personal profile, interactions with others may not be possible through social networks. Furthermore, this interaction is also constrained by the list of users that the members include in their own profiles. This means that there are pre-conditions that have to exist before one user can contact another through social networks as reported by Liu et al (2017). By including the history of social networks in their discussion, Boyd and Ellison imply that social networks have undergone a series of refinements meant to eventually result in improved performance and capacity.
As opposed to the other articles, which are limited in terms of scope, Kershner (1990) provides a detailed view of social networks beginning from the history of social networks to the contemporary applications of the same. For instance, the author describes the development of social networks from the time of e-mail application to the modern professional and social networks. She also distinguishes between the social applications and the professional applications in terms of their purposes, implications, and impacts on societal interactions. According to Kershner, social networks not only enable strangers to connect together but also foster business growth and professional development. The key features associated with social networks based on their functionality include autonomy, which is ensured through the development of individual profiles and diversity in terms of usage such as interactions through pictures, texts as well as audio and video files. The author also mentions some contemporary applications of social networks, emphasizing the role of social networks in marketing through the creation of communities of like-minded individuals.
Through her work, Kershner provides sufficient details for amateurs in social networks to understand the theory behind the application. Contrary to the limited scope of information provided by the other articles, the book provides enough details to the reader. In terms of definition, Kershner’s book and the article by Boyd and Ellison both provide conceptually similar introductions to the concept. This is based on their focus on key features of social networks as opposed to Liu et al (2017) who define social networks based on functionality alone.
In fact, the definitions provided by Kershner (1990) and Boyd and Ellison (2007) are more engaging and informative about the key issues pertaining to social networks. The articles also diverge in terms of describing the other features associated with social networks. It can be said that Liu et al focused entirely on functionality and the resulting impacts of social network use. On the other hand, Kershner, Boyd, and Ellison delved into greater details and provided general feature descriptions that not only focused on the mode of use but also on the impacts of use.
On the other hand, the three sources seem to converge on the concept of social network applications. For instance, Liu et al (2017) discuss applications to a range of contexts including health, politics and personal relationships. Similarly, Kershner addresses a range of applications including but not limited to business marketing and health consultancy. Boyd and Ellison (2007) also mention community creation and conclude that the impacts on different aspects of life depend on the type of social networks used. Moreover, the authors converge on the perception that social networks enhance interactions and blogging capacities among users.
The two articles and the textbook provide quality information about the use of social networks. Based on the definitions provided by the authors, social networks appear useful in the contemporary time. Nevertheless, although none of these writings can be said to be complete and sufficiently informative on its own, an integration of all the materials can help an interested individual to gain more insight on the subject. It can thus be concluded that while the materials are not independently wholesome, their worth comes through the integration of presented information.
The information collected regarding social networks can help one form a strong background towards the use of social networks for personal objectives. For instance, the awareness that social networks can be used in marketing brings about the impression that much can be achieved in businesses using social media. Similarly, the impacts of the same on education and politics imply that there is a great opportunity to influence others through social network use.
Boyd, D.N. and Ellison, N.B. (2007). Social networking sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 210- 230.
Kershner, H. (1990). Introduction to computer literacy 1st ed. Houghton Mifflin Publications.
Liu, J.S., Ho, M.H-C. and Lu, L.Y. (2017). Recent Themes in Social Networking Service Research. PLoS ONE, vol. 12, no. 1.