- As social networks proliferate, they are changing the way people think about the Internet, from a tool used in solitary anonymity to a medium that touches on questions about human nature and identity.
- If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth most populous in the world, just behind the U.S. Almost half of its users visit every day.
- Nielsen Online reports that social networking (and associated blogging) is now the fourth most popular online activity. Time spent on social-networking sites is growing at three times the rate of overall Internet usage, accounting for almost 10 percent of total time spent online.
- Social networks can lessen loneliness and boost self-esteem. But they can also have the opposite effect, depending on who you are and how you use these forums.
Steve is the kind of guy who likes to let everyone know what he is doing in generous detail. His Facebook page is littered with entries such as “Just finished my java mochaccino and about to walk Schnooker” and “Lost recipe for my scrumptious caramel fudge cake ... super bummed ... sigh.” He is certain that his online friends want to know exactly what is going on in his life, and what better way to oblige them than with hourly, if not half-hourly, updates?
It is easy to dismiss what Steve and millions of social-network users do every day as the flower of banality, but in truth they are engaged in the largest worldwide experiment in social interaction ever conducted. The Internet has always provided a loose forum for the like-minded to congregate, but social networking contributes considerable structure to the chaos, allowing people to communicate more consistently and vigorously than ever before.
This article was originally published with the title Are Social Networks Messing with Your Head?.