06 August 2006

Are we socially global or local?

Social networks are not new phenomena. They’ve been around ever since man became civilised and brought some order into living in groups. In the early days of social networking, the reach of the network was contained geographically. The concept of the globe was limited and people networked locally. In fact, homogeneity is a key feature of a strong social network; and, in the early days, sheer geographic limitations, by default, ensured social networks remained homogeneous.

With the Internet, the concept of the globe has expanded in multiple dimensions and, now, we all talk about a borderless world. Even the concept of time has taken on a new understanding. Obviously this has affected social networking. Today, it’s not strange to find people from India networking online with others in the UK, the US, Australia or anywhere else in the world for that matter. That’s because, the Internet has made us into global citizens and online social networking has now become a global reality.

But, how different is an online social network from a real one? Leaving aside the global reach it allows and the speed at which communication and sharing of information (including audio, video, picture and other data files) takes place, not much really.

Online social networkers hang out with friends just like their real counterparts. And, apart from talking about (this list is taken from yesterday’s post) music, movies, books, shopping, events, parties, dating and sex, they also talk about (this list has been added with inputs from my online social networking readers who were shocked to see that I had forgotten to mention) fashion, food, art, sports, travel, jokes and gossip. But, the interesting thing is, networking online isn’t enough. Online social networkers subsequently meet up and spend time with their online friends out in the real world.

Perhaps for this reason, most online social networks tend to have a somewhat local concentration. For instance, MySpace, the most successful online social network with 100 million registered profiles, has a strong concentration in the US. Reportedly, 86% of its users reside in the US alone. In fact, most countries have their own popular online social networks, enabling people not only to talk to others and share their passions with them, but also to meet with those around them from time to time.

According to Cliff Kurtzman, CEO of ADASTRO Inc., and his article, ‘Marketing to the MySpace Generation & The Economics of Social Networking’, “people are often using online social media to create relationships and connections which will enhance their lives away from the computer while interacting out in the ‘real world’.” After all, it’s human to want to be physically close to other human beings – and we can fulfil this need only locally.

No comments: