What is social networking?

A large gathering of peopleImagine this large crowd of people in a digital world of 1s and 0s.
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A social network is a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes”, which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.

Individuals called ‘nodes’ which are tied by one or more specific types of things. What does that remind you of?  That’s right:  groups or cultures.

Prior to the 80s, when people wanted to network, they would meet up at a favorite bar, local hangout, school, dance club, or some other mutual destination (could even be a friends’ house).

Through the 80s, into the early 90s, the internet became a commodity, and cellphones became a consumer item for more than just business people.  You could now call Joe or Randy and tell them that you were going to be late getting to the hangout without being home.

As the 90s came through, you had the internet becoming a part of everyday life. Cellphones were still limited in their use, but people stopped agreeing to meet at a certain place and just waited for a text message or phone call from somebody, telling them when to be there.

The late 90s is when social networking changed from interpersonal to digital. These were also the years for websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster; all with the same purpose:  Bringing people together by way of the Internet.  It also began the trend that unbeknownst to the world would become a career path:  Blogging.

The decade between 1995-2005 would change forever how people do things ‘over the wire.’  Social networking is no longer, “Mike, Joe, and Randy meeting up at Joe’s house for 10pm.”  It was, “Oh wow, Sue, Brianna, and Lucy are interested in hunting too!”  Here’s the catch:  Brianna lives in Chicago, IL, Sue lives in Pittsburgh, PA, and Lucy lives in Worcester, MA.  As I am typing this blog right now, I have made friends with ten people in Wisconsin without ever having been to Wisconsin.

Friendster was how people made connections on a virtual level, MySpace was how young kids would express themselves through design and HTML code, and in 1994, Facebook created the first (at the time) college-only social network that didn’t allow you to do much more than create a profile and collaborate.  You could have an entire classroom of students and a professor on Facebook; not to mention, you could create groups, whereby all students could collaborate on a project.

MySpace became the place where you liked a certain sports team, a certain artist, or wanted to tell someone in Tallahassee, FL that you had a boyfriend.  What happened to Friendster?  Ask the eight-track and LaserDisc.

Another way in which social networking has changed:  The job force.

Fifteen years ago, when an employer wanted to find out more about a potential candidate, they interviewed people face-to-face.  Now, they comb the digital social networks to see how this person expresses themselves.  Psychologically, people will take whatever is theirs and customize it to fit them.  People will note their strengths, weaknesses, what they’ve done for (or currently do for work), what their job consisted of, and other things related to it.

When the job market realized that there was a future for social networking, LinkedIn was created.  LinkedIn was the first social network dedicated to the professional where job candidates, companies, and professional groups came together to help people find work and recommend each other.  It was also the first social network where you could find out how much the average Customer Service Representative made at Verizon Wireless.

The biggest breakthrough in job seeking came out of LinkedIn:  Being able to send a message to the ‘big wigs’ of a company without actually working for the company.  As 2010 came around, nearly every large and professional company decided to pay their recruiters and hiring managers to sit on LinkedIn and “troll” the job boards looking for people to hire.  It also allows those same people to type in a skill such as “A+” and return a list of people who are A+, who may be looking for work.

Instead of blasting out 100 emails to people as a way to get people to come in for interviews, LinkedIn allows the recruiter or hiring manager to take a deeper look at these candidates – experience, skills, past salary, education, and even ‘who does this person know’.  Say they’re able to narrow it down to 50 people based on education, and subsequently 5 people based on the fact that the other 45 people are already working and are satisfied with their job.

The kicker?  The recruiter has already seen your ‘resume’ and credentials.  The next step is the interview – making interviews much more informative and productive than if you literally interviewed all 100 people.

Social networking as it stands in 2012, is more than just people getting together – it’s life – both work and personal.  As it stands as well, you can learn more about someone just by Googling their name than you can by asking them redundant and outdated questions during an interview.

For all intents and purposes, you could date that way

Do a search for “single men in Cleveland, Ohio,” and I’ll bet you’ll get more search results than there are lines in our tax code.  By using the network’s filters, you can even further narrow down your results:  Single, living in Cleveland, never married, and has an education.  For all intents and purposes, you get 10 hits.  Do you go on dates with 10 women?  You could, or you could narrow it down further to “non-smokers,” resulting in 3 results.  Congratulations: I’ve just made recruiting for a date sound like recruiting for the Regional Manager of your company – but the question is:  How much different are they?

Just keep in mind whenever possible that anything you post to social networking websites is visible to everyone, is admissible in court, and can be used against you in the job-acquisition process.  Just realize as employers and people have every right to see/use the information that they see as you do to post it.

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About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.

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