“Social Networking” a Misnomer

Social networking is a both erroneous and misleading term. Why do I say so? The term social implies friendly, informal interpersonal interaction within a community. Now, Facebook, Hi5, Friendster, Linkedin, WordPress, Twitter, Blogspot and now Google+ are all being lumped together under the term social networks. They are really virtual networks which by definition consist of connections between people or within a community devoid of the need to be at the same physical location. These virtual networks are normally facilitated or mediated by technologies such as the internet and mobile telephony.

I will only pick two among the very wide group of virtual networks to prove my point.

First, Twitter is really a “broadcasting” medium as one sends out messages or microblogs as they are sometimes called to a mass of “followers” who can be likened to listeners tuning in to a radio transmission. There is little social here since it is the norm rather than the exception for one to have several strangers as followers. There is also little interpersonal and even less friendship here since messages result in little if any social interaction.

Linked is the other virtual network that is simply not social if we are to agree on the definition above. It connects professionals in their professional capacity. Social interaction here is implicitly frowned upon much like professional interaction including the promotion of ones organization, goods or services is frowned upon in social networks such as Facebook.

To simplify the two examples above, perhaps the easy approach is to liken these virtual networks to a cocktail or party. A social party such as a child’s birthday celebration would usually not involve professional colleagues who do not happen to be friends. Likewise, a cocktail of an official or professional nature would not feature ones social friends unless they also happened to be professional colleagues.

The short of all this is that it is the crossing of these interpersonal lines that will see the decline of virtual networking numbers and activity.


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