Social networking is a major part of life in today’s society. It’s pretty clear that social networking has become more than just some trendy fad, and it’s here to stay.
Aside from the mindless games, virtual socialization and numerous opportunities for procrastination, we have to take a step back and realize the immense potential that these sites bring to our world.
There is an article on NewScientist.com called “Innovation: How social networking might change the world,” which addresses a selection of innovative ideas, created by businesses, that take advantage of all that social networking has to offer in a practical, useful way.
The article mentions how the skeptical founder of O’Reily Media “challenged the Web 2.0 community to come up with something more productive than time-wasting Facebook applications.”
Taking him up on that challenge, Barack Obama’s election campaign launched the “Obama ’08 iPhone application,” which made it possible for campaigners to quickly and effectively reach out to the public with information about the campaign.
There are several other networking sites that are taking on the challenge. For example, a London social networking site called “Accesscity” is currently in production, aiming to help users to find the simplest travel routes across cities. (They have a wordpress.com blog, too! Check it out.) Another network called We20 enables people from all over the world to meet and share thoughts on today’s leading economic issues in groups of 20. There is also Zimride, which helps people to carpool with others who they may never have met without the site.
Even our class website is an example of how social networking can be used in a very practical, beneficial way. It makes distributing assignments so easy and efficient, while keeping the students connected even when class is not in session.
The NewScientist.com article focuses in on the idea that social networking users should be “working for the greater good, rather than for their own amusement.” I think this is a great idea, though it is a bit idealistic.
Regardless of the productive possibilities that social networking sites bring, the pure entertainment that people derive from these sites is overwhelming. It’s obvious that there are people out there using social networking for smart, practical reasons, but there will always be an endless stream of people simply using social networking as a form of recreation.
You can’t deny that social networking has undoubtedly opened up a whole new world of potential for our society. It is up to the people–up to us–to choose what we do with these networks, to choose whether efficiency or entertainment ends up dominating the field of social networking.