Social Networking Websites: What’s the Point?
My local newspaper recently ran a story about how Facebook.com can ruin people’s romantic relationships. The argument was that the site makes it too easy to get back in touch with former “significant others” and inappropriate contact can easily follow. It was also stated that by using the site, it is too easy to flirt with anyone and everyone.
Are you kidding me? This was one of the dumber article ideas I had come across in a long time. The statement that Facebook can ruin relationships reminded me of the saying, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s not the website that is causing discord and breakups, it’s the people using the site who are being shady and messing up things for themselves.
For a long time, I worked under the assumption that “social networking websites” were something silly that teenagers were into. I didn’t understand why you would want to join a social networking site unless you wanted to either gossip about the cute boys on the high school basketball team or discuss the latest developments on the life of Miley Cyrus. Who cares? I’m too old for that stupidness.
As it has become a favorite topic on the local news, I also associated the social networking sites with childhood bullying. It seemed that every week, there was a news story about a child who was being horribly cyberbullied — a kid who got ganged up on and threatened via MySpace.com. The news segments would try to cover both sides of the story, interviewing an upset, crying preteen who claimed to have done nothing to deserve the bullying, then another preteen who would giggle and roll her eyes and say she hadn’t done anything wrong. These news segments would always end with the question of “is MySpace safe for children?” I found these reports disturbing and always sided with the kid who was being bullied.
As time went on, a few of my friends started to set up accounts on MySpace and Facebook. Although they seemed to enjoy using these sites, I still didn’t understand why you would want strangers to know anything about you. I didn’t get it. When someone would ask me why I didn’t have one of these accounts, my standard reply was, “because I’m not 14.” Whoever was asking me the question would be slightly offended and try to explain the appeal, but I was never convinced.
Then a friend told me about LinkedIn.com and how excited she was about joining. This was a friend I knew wouldn’t be into the standard reasons I assumed people joined sites for, so I asked her more about it. She explained that LinkedIn was more of a professional networking tool than a social one. It was a way to keep in touch with former co-workers and offer them a possible introduction to people they may know at other companies. On LinkedIn, you were only supposed to connect to people you know and trust in the business world. As I seem to be constantly in the job-seeking market, this didn’t sound like a bad idea. My friend invited me to join, so I looked further into the site.
LinkedIn seemed like something beneficial to be a part of, so I signed up. You basically create a summary of your resume and use that as your profile. Then, you can import a contact list from Gmail (or Hotmail, Yahoo, or whatever webmail provider you may use) to see whom you know who has a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn also provides lists of people who work at places you’ve worked and people who attended the same schools as you. You can then send these people invitations to be connected. If you become connected, you vouch for your connections and they vouch for you.
I have now had a LinkedIn account for more than a year. While I can’t say I have reaped huge benefits from being a LinkedIn member, I do like knowing when someone on my contact list gets a new job. It’s always good to know people at a lot of different companies.