When I walked into class on Monday and found out we were going to be learning about social networks, I was skeptical about whether I would be able to learn anything new. Like many of my peers, I spend a fairly large portion of my days on social networks. I find myself constantly checking my phone for social network notifications. For example, whenever I’m bored or procrastinating doing schoolwork, my first thought is to scroll through Instagram, Facebook message friends, or watch funny videos on Youtube. Having spent so much time on social networks, I was surprised to realize how little I really knew about them. This is partially because I am not a mindful consumer; I do not consciously think about and analyze the social networks I use. However, Journalism 2.0 is changing this and is slowly making me become a more observant person.
To begin the class, my professor, Pipo Serrano, explained that social networks are websites that allow users to directly communicate and network with each other. While websites such as Facebook and Twitter immediately pop up in my head when I think of social networks, I wouldn’t think to consider websites like Wikipedia and Google Docs as being social networks too. That is, I think of social networks as mearly being one type: the “Chat and Inform” social networks. Nevertheless, my professor called attention to the fact that there are actually five types, including “Professional and Networking” (such as LinkedIn), “Chat and Inform” (such as Twitter, Facebook), “Give Content” (such as Youtube, Flickr, Spotify, Wikipedia, Instagram), “Collaborative” (such as Wikipedia, Google Docs, and nearly all of them), and “All at the Same Time” (such as Facebook and Google+) social networks. It surprised that social networks cover such a vast array of websites – from websites that focus on business networking, sharing music, and even discussing political campaigns – and that I would thus have to broaden my view of the topic.
In fact, I didn’t even realize that Youtube was considered a social network until this class. This was especially surprising because it meant that, contrary to my prior belief that the social network of the future is Facebook, it is actually Youtube. When I started reevaluating my usage of Facebook, everything suddenly made sense. When I was in high high school, posting and viewing photo albums or wall posts on Facebook was all people cared about. Facebook was the only website my high school had to block because it was the only website students would go on to socialize when they weren’t on the academic websites they were supposed to be on. Nowadays, although I still use Facebook because there are some people I’m only connected with through it, I don’t enjoy it as much as I once did and I spend less time on it. I rather spread my time thinly between the numerous social networks that are available today. I personally think one of the contributing factors in Facebook’s demise is also that people accept so many strangers or acquaintances as “friends” on Facebook that it is no longer a site to connect to real friends. For example, I feel uncomfortable posting pictures of my friends and I on Facebook now because I don’t know who exactly my audience is or if I would want them to be able to see a glimpse into my personal life. This problem is exaccerbated by the fact that Facebook changes its terms and conditions multiple times a year, exposing people’s information unless they actively read the announcement emails and reset their privacy settings. Controversy surrounding these privacy issues spreads awareness about them and I think that soon, people’s lack of trust in the network will make them significantly cut down on the amount of information they disclose on it. As a result, Facebook will continue to function but is gradually dying.
Youtube, on the other hand, is becoming the strongest social network of the future. People post videos on Youtube knowing that a public audience will be able to see them. This allows Youtube to avoid the messy arguments that Facebook faces against their unhappy consumers (who by contrast post thinking only a private audience of close friends will be able to see). Additionally, with a growing user base, Youtube’s video library is expanding and people are able to find videos on virtually any unique interest they have. It is becoming a useful tool because people can follow others with similar hobbies as them, watch Youtube tutorials on things they want to learn how to do, and socialize with others by liking, sharing, or commenting on videos. People also have the liberty of posting their own videos on the worldwide wed and even creating a business out of it. Every time people subscribe/follow or comment on videos, the video poster gets more money. In this way, Youtube combats the effect of technological innovation decreasing job opportunities for people. For example, while machines are increasingly able to replace humans in the workplace, the technological innovation of social networks like Youtube allow people to earn a living and become self-employed. I think this will be critical in Youtube’s success as the type of workers the world demands changes with the technology of the time.