A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Adam Nerland
Today, the term “social networking” has morphed into something drastically different than it was twenty, ten or even five years ago. While being a part of a person’s social network, by definition, can entail anything from a casual acquaintance to a spouse, those broad lines have become even more widely stroked with the advent of social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook in recent years. According to Facebook’s press site, more than 60 percent of its 12 million users log in daily and 85 percent log in at least once a week. That means more than 7.2 million people use Facebook for social networking as part of their daily routine. MySpace boasts more than 100 million users, though the similar frequency of use measurements could not be found. Still, it’s clear that for many people, a significant amount of social interaction has taken a dramatic shift from the physical to the virtual. But how close are people to their internet friends? While it’s clear that many people enjoy the social opportunities these companies offer, others feel the sites provide an unnatural way to keep a loose rein on acquaintances they would otherwise seldom think about. “I don’t think I could name 500 people I’ve met if my life depended on it, but that’s about how many friends Facebook says I have,” said Joshua Read, 21, liberal studies major at Florida College in Tampa, Fla. “The weird thing is, I don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know, so apparently I’ve met all of these people, but I’m certainly not close to most of [my Facebook friends] anymore. Most of these people I never talk to.” Still, others feel that social networking sites provide a unique opportunity to preserve friendships that might otherwise fall by the wayside. “If it weren’t for Facebook and MySpace, I would have lost touch with all my friends from [home],” said Allison Bacigalupi, 23, a graduate student at University of South Florida. Bacigalupi estimates that she spends at least two hours a day on social networking sites. She has more than 850 listed friends on Facebook, and about 400 on MySpace. But most unique to today’s society is the concept of strictly internet-based friendships. Keith Goolsby, 27, is a graphic artist in Tampa, Fla. He uses MySpace to interact with people who share common interests and to sell his artwork. “I don’t use it for internet dating or anything, but I’ve got a lot of friends on MySpace that I’ve never met,” said Goolsby. “You can look at other people’s interests, and if they seem interesting, I’ll add them as a friend. People add me a lot, too, because they like my art. It’s great for this kind of work – I’ve sold pieces and gotten jobs because of contacts made through MySpace. I couldn’t have done this five years ago.” For better or for worse, social networking sites are growing rapidly, with no signs of slowing down. With more and more people joining these internet communities each day, the future of social interaction certainly looks different. While face-to-face friendships are unlikely to dissolve into a Matrixlike realm any time soon, the definition of friends and acquaintances do seem to be shifting. TTYL.