I just received an interesting e-mail—apparently an “old” friend from my elementary school days found my information on a social networking site and wants to reconnect. What’s truly amazing is not that an old friend from a school I attended over thirty-five years ago wants to catch up but the fact he can do so. Social networking is changing the way many of us communicate.
Before social networking each of us would make some sort of personal connection then exchange one of many accepted contact methods. It could be the business card, the phone number, the home address or the next meeting location. This legacy process is time consuming and is notorious for producing false positives. The fundamental flaw: Interactions being based on events or locations. Once the event is over or the time has passed, interactions end.
Social networking is completely unique as it connects nodes (commonly individuals or organizations) through interdependencies, such as personal interests, common values, past history, or new ideas. Before social networking old friends had a difficult time connecting, as we could pass each other in the street and not recognize the face we knew 35 years ago. Today we can participate in a network that holds a connection such as “classmates from my elementary school”; by recognizing a name or a face we can make that connection.
Unfortunately social networking makes connections to nodes that may not be beneficial for ones social life and career. For instance, North Carolina school officials have warned over 19,000 employees they could be fired if they make offensive posts on social networking sites such as Facebook. In fact one of their elementary teachers was suspended and recommended for firing after she posted on her Facebook page that she was teaching "in the ghetto of Charlotte”. In Durham, North Carolina, two police officers were the subject of an internal investigation after derogatory remarks about President-elect Barack Obama were posted on their MySpace pages.
Therefore social networking has risk with the reward; as one’s social network can be the foundation for a social disaster