Basics of Social Networking

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Social Networking: Cast Your Social Net on the Web

You’ve undoubtedly heard the names Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster thrown around in recent years. These sites are examples of online social networks, and are a tiny fraction of the number of similar sites taking root on the Web. We're all familiar with social networks offline; they could be one’s professional contacts, college friends, or family members. Online social networks take this idea of connecting with others and make it digital. Whether it’s for fun, business, romance, or any other reason, more and more people are interacting over the Net. To learn more about this phenomenon, and to do some networking of your own, use the resources provided in this guide. For a Spanish-language version of the Guide, click here.

Basics of Social Networking

Joining an online social network is pretty simple. In general, you’ll go to the site, create a username, add information about yourself to your profile, and search for contacts. How you interact with other users is up to you. On some networks you can send private or public messages, on others you can proudly display your friends on your profile page, and on some social networks your contacts receive an update every time you change details of your profile (and vice versa). Just like in the real world, once you’re in a group of contacts, your number of connections can grow exponentially.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Social networking is at the core of the Web 2.0 movement, where users have some level of interaction or involvement with the content on the Web sites they visit. The findingDulcinea Web Technology Web Guide has an explanation of Web 2.0. Want more Web 2.0? Try Go2Web20.net.
  • Many social networking sites develop their own sets of lingo to describe the actions performed on the site. For instance, on Facebook, public messages can be written on someone's "wall," while on other sites, this feature might be called a "message board." Each space serves essentially the same purpose (for other users to post comments on your profile) but each site (for branding or other reasons) may call them something different. Many sites use the term "friending" to describe the act of adding another user to your list of contacts. However, it’s not uncommon to see terms such as “connecting," "linking," or “adding” used. If you are unsure of what a social networking word means, check the site’s “Frequently Asked Questions” section to find a definition.

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