Define social networking to mean the process of creating, building and connecting people with one another online. It’s a way that they share special interests, hobbies or activities through different Internet communities. Characteristics shared by members of a group may include interests, kinship ties, ethnic or social background, values and representations.
Members in the online community participate differently. Lurkers observe, but do not contribute to the community. Novices engage the community, begin to provide content and tentatively interact in a few discussions. Regulars consistently adds to the community discussion and interacts with other users. Leaders are recognized as veteran participants. Elders leave the community for many reasons including a change in interests or no time to stay connected.
Social groups are comprised of people who connect with one another through a common bond. People can identify with other people in the group and have a strong sense of belonging. These social groups may be an ethnic group, a workplace colleague group, a religious group, college class, sports team or another group of people who share something in common with one another.
Two types of social groups define social networking. The way a group’s members interact with one another shapes the behavior and personality of each group member. Primary groups play a role in the first part of a person’s life. Secondary groups are larger, more anonymous and impersonal.
Charles Cooley, a sociologist from the Chicago School of sociology introduced the concept of the primary group in his book Social Organization: A Study of the Larger Mind (1909).
A primary group is a group that offers implicit items, such as love, concern, caring and support to the members. Examples would be family groups, crisis support groups, love relationships and church groups. Relationships formed in primary groups are long lasting. These groups are often psychologically comforting to the individuals involved and provide a source of support and encouragement.
Primary groups consist of family and friends. Families shape basic values and create a sense of belonging for each family member. Later, this sense of belonging expands to include friends. Primary groups provide an identity and a strong sense of self through direct and intimate interactions. They help to shape a person’s personality. These groups are small, close-knit and intimate.
Secondary groups are short-term and are based on shared interests, hobbies or activities. Sometimes secondary group members interact based on social statuses. A student may be in a college class with a lot of other students. A professor may belong to a professional association. A worker may belong to a union. As people interact with one another in these secondary groups, these larger groups may break down into smaller primary groups.
Within these groups, we can define social networking. Social networks refer to the social ties that connect people with one another. These connections include family, friends, acquaintances, classmates, colleagues, neighbors or other groups of people.
A community is not a new concept. Interaction between community members happened in a social setting face-to-face. The Internet changed this scenario. In an online community made possible today by the Internet, social interactions no longer occur face-to-face. Formation of an online community should be based on a set of values. These include education, information, communication, opportunity, culture, equality with the economy, democracy, human services and sustainability. People can use mobile phones to connect with an online community.