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Pros and Cons of Social Networking

Jun 8th 2011 at 4:31 PM

It was just a few years ago that everyone considered the idea of an online social network as ground-breaking. Today, however, almost everyone around the civilized world knows about Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and similar other social networking sites. People use them to share personal information, businesses utilize them to advertise their offers and reach out to the market, and organizations consider them an avenue where they can encourage people to join their cause.

Just like in all things, having an account in such sites has its pros and cons. Before we take a look at them, you have to understand there are a lot of factors that you should take into consideration—trends, technology, features of each site, etc.

Pros

The nicest thing about having an account in a social networking site is that you can make connections with other people. You can stay up to speed with what your friends and loved ones are doing, communicate with relatives who are living overseas, share pictures of your latest adventures, etc. If you signed in to a particularly popular social network, you may be able to track down old friends and renew friendships.

In addition, there are sites that cater to specific groups. For instance, LinkedIn caters to professionals who are looking for a job, and businessmen who are looking for skilled employees. MySpace caters to musical artists, bands, and songwriters who want to share and promote their compositions.

Social networking sites can also be used for promotional means. For instance, you can put up a page announcing the new mobile phone store you are opening and post information and images of your products. You can advertise your services as a plumber to your contacts so they can refer you to someone who requires a plumbing job. Are you a writer, actor, photographer, or musician? You can take advantage of social networking sites to promote your work—e-books, short movies you produced, images, or songs. You can maintain a fan base and, more importantly, interact with them.

Some social networking sites also allow you to organize an event so you can invite your friends to attend the occasion. For example, if you want to plan a group trip to the beach with your friends, you can send them a notice from your page.

Many social networking sites also carry a host of applications, ranging from games to review programs.

Cons

However, not all is a bed of roses. Here are the drawbacks of social networking.

The biggest drawback of maintaining an account in a social network is that it makes identity theft easier. You need to share some information (e.g., e-mail, address, birthday, etc.) about yourself to register an account. A clever, unscrupulous person can use this information against you so he could send you spam or worse, steal your identity. Many sites are trying to minimize the risk by letting you decide how much information to share.

If you are overly cautious and do not share any information, no one will be able to find you on that site. Therefore, you defeat the purpose of social networking in the first place. If you share too much information, someone may masquerade your identity and gain access to your e-mail or financial data.

Social networking sites are also becoming carriers for malware. For instance, you may receive a link from a contact. The link may state that it leads to an interesting video that has you appearing in it. If you choose to follow the link, it will bring up a message box saying you need to install some type of video player to view the clip. However, that player is actually a Trojan horse or a virus that can harm your computer or can spy on your Internet activities.

Also, social networking can be very addictive—they can eat up your time as you check friends’ updates, upload your pictures, or engage in conversation. This has become a major problem for companies whose employees spend more time on Facebook, MySpace, and other sites than their work, hampering the entire company’s productivity level.

If you join a social network and add hundreds of people to your contact list, you will receive a large number of updates constantly. Combing laboriously through these updates can be overwhelming and annoying, especially if you are looking for something specific.

But do not worry too much. The pros of social networking outweigh the cons if you are careful and responsible when you sign up. Use the sites properly to safely reap the enjoyment and rewards of social networking.

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