There is a tendency to associate social networking with Facebook, mainly because it is the biggest and most popular online social media network, and because of the movie called the social network. This essay expands the dimensions of that belief a little to show how the online social media networks are part of social networking, but that they in themselves do not represent social networking. A simple analogy may be saying how talking isn’t defined by the use of a telephone or telephone network.
Social media allows social networking to happen very efficiently. This is not what Facebook does. In fact, the most efficient social media network on the Internet is Twitter. This is because Twitter allows one person to inform millions of people of a fact in seconds, and start to see responses and direct replies within seconds. Facebook is popular because it is user centric, and is the first social media network to put the user first and to literally focus all of the attention on the user and what the user wants to say and portray about him or herself. This is what MySpace was trying to do but eventually failed against Facebook.
What does this have to do with social networking? The truth is that it happens online mostly because online is the most efficient way to do it, and the likes of Facebook have made it more pleasurable. The Facebook wall is more like a kitchen fridge where people stick up their paintings for all the world to see.
A social network itself is the set of dyadic ties between people. These people are actors in the network, and each actor may be made up of more than one person. The Internet has made this easy to accomplish and conduct. Here are a few numbers to help clarify the popularity of social media.
Over 16 billion photos are on Instagram, there are ten million Facebook apps, and the Facebook “+” button is pressed a billion times per day. Over 60% of people use Twitter from a mobile phone, and there are over a billion Facebook users. There are 343 million Google+ users, and YouTube has over a billion visitors per month.
Does social networking happen elsewhere? It happens wherever there are dyadic ties between more than two network actors (many argue that one-to-one interaction also counts as social networking too). There are many different types of social media network online, and each has their own hierarchy, with many of them being asymmetrical. The most popular social media networks are free to join as it stands at the moment.
Social media is not what makes social networking. Social media and the availability of the Internet is what has made social networking easier online. Therefore, due to it being easy to access and easier to use online, it has become popular to the point where Facebook has over 1 billion users and YouTube has over one billion visitors per month. There are no TV channels that get that many viewers per month.