The emergence of online communities dates back to the dawn of the Internet when email and mailing lists were first introduced. Today, blogs, forums, message boards, chat rooms, online photo albums, bookmark sharing websites, video sharing sites, and various social networking websites/tools have flooded the digital landscape with what it means to be part of one or several online communities.
Social networking is the focus of people and their relationships with each other through a common activity or interest. An online community allows people to connect with each other through participation of their common activity or interest using the Internet as the communication medium. A social networking service or website is a form of online community, but the spotlight is instead on the individual, rather than the community.
Social networks are usually based around user profile pages. A profile page in a social network usually includes some basic autobiographical information, as well as interests, and other miscellaneous items which are usually related to the main focus of the social network or the way in which the social network functions.
But…What is it Good For?
What can you do with an online social network? It simply boils down to a way of keeping in contact with other people. School, work, business, family, clubs, activities, and dating—these are all avenues on how people are connected to each other.
From a personal standpoint, there are generally two schools of thought on how to use and approach social networks. Some people use social networks to meet new people and expand upon their social circle, while others simply use it to communicate with the people they already know in the real world.
On social networks, people can be observed sharing messages, videos, photos, and listed interests—and online, these relationships can be seen as tangible connections. Most of the time in the “real world”, many of the connections that are made between people are hidden. Maybe you can discover that someone you know shares a common interest with someone else you have never met. An online social network offers the unique opportunity to interact with that person.
However, not everyone uses online social networks in that fashion. Some people like to focus on the people they already know, keep in touch, or help develop their existing relationship with each other—especially if they’re separated by geographical distance.