Avoid popularity if you would have peace.
-- Abraham Lincoln.
A social networking service is an online service, platform, or website that focuses on building and reflecting social relations among people.
A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging.
The main types of social networking services are those which contain category places (such as former school-year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with Facebook and Twitter widely used worldwide. MySpace and LinkedIn being the most widely used in North America. Nexopia (mostly in Canada), Bebo, Hi5, Hyves (mostly in The Netherlands), StudiVZ (mostly in Germany), iWiW (mostly in Hungary), Tuenti (mostly in Spain), Nasza-Klasa (mostly in Poland), Decayenne, Tagged, XING, Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe. Orkut and Hi5 in South America, India and Central America, and Friendster, Mixi, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, renren and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands and Twitter, Orkut and Facebook in India.
Why do I say that social networking sucks?
Because in essence it has very little to do with actual social interaction and because in many cases it prevents people from real social value!
You have to realize that Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social networks is all about making money. As per November 2010 Facebook has more than 500 million active users and an estimated income at about 800 million US dollars a year. Currently Twitter has more than 175 million users and an estimated income at about 150 million US dollars a year.
Social networking is not about giving you a social improvement in life or about keeping in touch with friends and family. You can keep in touch with friends and family in much more productive and rewarding ways than Facebook or Twitter.
What corporate owned social networks do is to make it a habit for people to use their services to such a degree that after a while you just can't let it go!
And it's even worse when it comes to businesses.
A lot of SEO people has found new ways of earning money by promoting the idea that if you own a business your company has to have a public face on all the famous social networking websites.
Even a popular TV channel as Discovery no longer promotes it's own website in advertisement, but actually promotes a link to their official Facebook profile.
It all seems so damned convenient, but in reality it has nothing to do with convenience. Again it's all about making money and making you dependent upon their services - and in some cases about secret monitoring users and supplying governments and advertising companies with information.
The more you need a service, the more you depend upon it, the more the owners can make money on your needs.
As human beings we have some very specific needs when it comes to social activities and the problem is that we cannot substitute real life social interactions with social networking online!
Sure, in the beginning you might feel that a lot of people are interested in you, but you soon discover that all those interactions are very shallow and superficial and they are actually stealing away precious time needed to actually build, grow, and maintain real social value.
Real social value is experienced when we physically get together, when we pay real attention to each other, and when we care and help each other, not when we chat on Facebook.
Aside from experiencing real social value, most of us would benefit a lot from helping other people in our society. Some people are homeless, some people are poor, some people are ill, some people (a lot actually) are very lonely. Social media cannot help lonely people! When you feel lonely you need to feel that someone cares enough to visit you or take a nice walk with you.
Social networking leaves an empty impression. You cannot read the face of the person you are dealing with. You cannot feel the warmth of his or hers smile. Looking at a picture of someone smiling and actually experiencing a real smile is very different indeed.
A friend of mine started using Facebook and Twitter. After a while he had a lot of contacts and everybody seemed to want to add him to their contact list. A lot of people also followed him on Twitter.
What started out as a fun way of interacting with friends and family actually turned into a "hazardous disease".
Every time he did something he tweeted about it, and every time he came home he had to log-in to Facebook to check new messages and to reply and add people.
After a while it occupied most of his life and instead of getting out after work and actually meet people he was stranded in front of his computer or his phone without having any real social interaction what so ever.
Sorry, but who cares?!
This section was added on 2012-08-14
The other day I was talking with a friend who asked me if I had heard some specific news about a some problems in a particular city (no need to go into boring details). I had not heard the news. I searched the Internet using Google and several online news services, but I wasn't able to locate any information about the issue. Later when I asked him where he had gotten the information he said:
No, no, you can't locate this kind of news on the regular Internet, you have to have a Facebook account! We share these kinds of news internally amongst friends only!
Not only is this very frustrating for people not using Facebook, but this is a very bad situation that should be avoided at all costs. The Internet is a global set of documents, images, and other resources, shared freely and openly between people using technology. Facebook is seriously limiting the usage of the Internet by creating new habits in people not serving the free exchange of information and news.
The answer is really simple: Delete your Facebook profile and Twitter account and get out of the house. Go visit your family instead. Meet up with your friends and take real interest in their lives. See if you can help someone with something. Stop tweeting.
Social networking can be a good thing, but then it has really nothing to do with actual social networking.
When something important happens and people who are present tweet openly about it. This is important because that way you're not subjected to the manipulation of information that the main media often performs.
But again this kind of service doesn't need Twitter or any social networking tool. Al it needs are some independent news websites that allow people to send SMS and email about whats going on - like Wikinews!
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
-- Mark Twain.
Whenever I hear a SEO (a person working with Search Engine Optimization) promote the use of social networking like it's a matter of life or death I feel sorry for the business owner because I know that social networking very seldom provides any real business value. The only thing social networking is creating for business owners are more expenses (paying the SEO) and less time doing real networking.
Sure, you might get your Facebook company profile spread to a lot of people, but people are not going to purchase your product or service just because your company is on Facebook! Getting someone to add your profile to their contact list isn't going to make them purchase anything.
People know that even though they get the link to your Facebook company profile from their best friend, and he recommends that they add your profile to their contact list, that the sole purpose of your profile is to sell them something. Something that they most likely don't need.
The reason why Google AdWords are working is because they are related to what people are searching for. When someone enters "bike" in a search query he is most likely interested in purchasing a new bike, or at least getting some information about bikes, and while some of the ordinary search result may be shops that sells bikes, lots are properly articles or information about bikes, hence the adds connected to the search query are much more relevant.