The virtual world of social networking is fast-paced, ever changing, and truthfully a little hard to keep up with sometimes. A lot of research has been done on social networking sites because they have become such an integral part of our daily lives and of the relationships we construct with one another. Many scholars have looked at social media online because it raises some very interesting questions that can almost lead to what can feel like a free therapy session. But from these therapy sessions, we can learn a lot about ourselves and the technologically-driven world we live in.
Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison are among many who have dedicated their efforts to researching and studying social networking sites. Boyd and Ellison did so in their article, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship”. The article was published in 2007 and helps to define what social networking sites are, how they’ve developed and how they function. Boyd and Ellison define a social networking site as a space to “construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system” (Boyd and Ellison). Throughout their article they help to articulate the history of various social networking sites such as Friendster and MySpace. They take us back to the early days of MySpace when teenagers began joining and the site then changed its policy to allow minors to join. As a result, the site grew tremendously. MySpace since then endured safety issues, causing it to suffer, according to Boyd and Ellison.
Boyd and Ellison’s article is extremely helpful in getting to know and understand social networking sites and how they came to be what they are today. With that said, however, in some respects, their article is missing elements thus making it somewhat outdated. In particular, social networking sites are physically changing their design aesthetics relatively frequently and those changes seem to have a great affect on the reaction of their users. For example, Facebook recently changed from their typical setup to the new timeline format. This sparked some debate among Facebook users about whether or not people liked the change. Many people posted status’s saying how much they hated the change and wouldn’t use Facebook anymore. But did this actually interfere with people’s ability to socialize with each other online? Moreover, according to a New York Times article, “Losing Popularity Contest, MySpace Tries a Makeover” by Brian Stelter, MySpace has recently revamped their website after having lost a lot of its users, thanks to some inspiration from its fellow networking sites. I think that Boyd and Ellison’s analysis and focus on history could be updated in that it might be important to look at how these new aesthetic alterations have affected the activity within these sites or if they have at all. Boyd and Ellison point out that, “what makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks” (Boyd and Ellison). So, if this is the case, I think that this notion would need to be updated in looking at how users “articulate and make visible their social networks” with the new changes in format. How will MySpace’s revamping change the sites success? Will it? How do sudden physical changes and format changes affect the way people use social networking sites? These are questions I believe could be really beneficial being answered. Their analysis of the notion of visibility could be expanded to accommodate these recent changes.
However, with that said, Boyd and Ellison’s article is still relevant because it grounds our understanding of social networking sites in history. Their analysis helps to give perspective and context about where these sites came from and what they were originally intended to do. For example, the article from the Huffington Post, “Fake Facebook ‘Like’ Crackdown Leads To Popularity Drop For Some Pages” by Britney Fitzgerald is best understood after having read Boyd and Ellison’s article. It points out that Facebook has been eliminating fake accounts in order to increase security on the site. Here, we can see that Boyd and Ellison’s article is still very relevant in analyzing this article because it provides us with the background of what social networking is defined as and the notion of authenticity that comes along with that. Boyd and Ellison’s analysis of what social networking sites are by default, is especially helpful because this article brings up the notion that those terms and conditions were violated. The “fake” accounts violated the very structure of what the social networking sites were built off of. Boyd and Ellison’s insights are still very much necessary in making those connections.