Week 3- Social Graphs

The primary purpose of a social graph is based upon a mathematical analysis that would reveal the level of connections a user has with other users in the online, social networking community. The statistics that a social graph provides gives social media the potential to grow and the opportunity to benefit from specific users’ interactions with one another, allowing individuals and/or corporations with similar interests to communicate.

As social media continues to grow in numbers and its influence increases on a global scale, cementing its place in society, has now led to a majority of social media users to have more than one account. It would make sense for users to not want to continuously have to create new login accounts; not only is that time consuming and annoying, but being forced to do so could also be dangerous. Users have to repeatedly tailor their profile to match their personal preferences, keep reconnecting with the same friends on new sites and, perhaps most unsettling, encountering the potential risk of having their personal information and privacy jeopardized. Linking users multiple social media profiles’ information together is just one aspect of the possibilities that “social graphs” can and do offer.

 “In the ideal scenario, we would like to spend the least amount of time logging in, configuring, telling the system what we like. We want to use the network to connect and to communicate. More importantly, we want to not just feel that we are in control, we want to be in control of our personal information. Just like we choose who to make friends with, we want to decide how our friendship information is used. We think of a social network as a service that has our eyeballs and can advertise to us, in exchange for connecting us to people we want to connect to. And as with any service, we want to control our information.” http://readwrite.com/2007/09/11/social_graph_concepts_and_issues#awesm=~owa9GsILHvb6ke

With all these variables at play, it would make sense for social graphs to want to link together users’ account information as a way to minimize such inconveniences and potential for hacking and fraud. However, potential problems could arise, given that simply because two people are connected in one aspect of their lives- such as through work- that does not necessarily equate to them wanting to be connected in other realms of social media. And while social graph does promise to give users the option of allowing them to decide which connection they wish to make, this still does not guarantee privacy.

Other risks can result with the use social graphs. An example of this is that a user’s social media history and various accounts becomes a virtual fingerprint of such an individual. By the personal details of a user being revealed so publicly, that individual now becomes highly appealing to companies looking to advertise to those whose personal information match the demographic of those companies and businesses. It’s not just companies and business that could potentially capitalize on a user’s information: a goal for social graphs would be to allow other social media networks to thrive in an online environment where few social media websites dominate a majority of the marketplace.

“Almost universally every small site I’ve talked to wants to cooperate, realizing their graphs are incomplete and that’s not their specialty… they just need the social graph to do their thing. They don’t care where it comes from and they don’t mind contributing their relatively small amount of data to making the global shared graph better. Uncooperative sites, on the other hand, are the ones that are already huge and either see value in their ownership of the graph or are just large enough to be apathetic on this topic.” (http://bradfitz.com/social-graph-problem/)

            But not all social networking sites are thrilled with this. At times it seems as though the hesitation coming from those “huge” social media websites that do not want to be a part of the social graph is, because at the end of the day, social media websites are a business, just another form of a free enterprise. If these “giants” in the social media world decide to become apart of a social graph then doing so could potentially- and most likely- equate to loss of profit.

Sharing users’ information with new and emerging social media websites and other applications would open the door to new competition in not only for marketing but also risk their own users’ activities. Social media websites have proven to be immensely lucrative becoming a new, virtual form of capitalism. Facebook, for example, continues to buy out new applications and other forms of social media websites as a way to dominate the marketplace and limit competition.

Such was the case when Facebook was unable to buy out Twitter. After that, the social media website quickly turned to Instagram and offered the relatively new, image based application a one billion dollar cash buy out even though Instagram at the time, had no revenues. The move was intended to not only allow Facebook to become a major player as a mobile application, something with which the social network had notoriously struggled, but also as a way to gain leverage over Twitter.  The immediate result of the buy out led to Instagram no longer being a feature for Twitter users from which to upload photos.  

            As with most cases involving aspects if social media, there are positives and negatives associated with the use of social graphs. On the positive side it has the ability individuals and corporations with those that share their similar taste and interest, on the other it exposes users to those that might take advantage of such tastes and interest that are being divulged. In the end, time will only demonstrate the validity of using, or rather, sharing social graph as a way to further communicate and connect.






Week 2

Social media reaches a wide demographic, overwhelmingly resonating with users within the range of the18-29 age group. Although through extensive research, those who study demographics have been able to pretty much pinpoint the age group most likely to avail itself of all that social media offers, for practical reasons it is impossible, though, to attach a number to how many young people use social media. However, when broken down for purposes of investigation and examination, it has been found that other forums have demonstrated popularity within certain markets of that age-specific demographic. Such factors include: gender, race, education level, income, etc. The umbrella over which all social media exists now becomes more selective in the sense that users have found a more specific, smaller branch with which to identify the most. As a result, when these various and distinct aspects of social media are taken into consideration, it becomes increasingly difficult for it and its users to be lumped together and thus viewed as simply one large community. There are simply too many factors within the context of social media to consider its users as simply being a part of just one group.

And while any analysis of social media can and should be dissected into specific demographics, this still, however, does not limit its effect when it comes to the influence that it has on society. Social media’s importance does not necessarily equate to the size of its audience, but its influence can be measured in its potential to reach an audience far beyond its users, impacting the world beyond such individuals themselves.  Social media has the ability to affect non-users as well, given that users have the ability to post information or stories regarding individuals who have no affiliation with it, allowing users to make his or her information public. Social media can also be a catalyst to bring awareness to a story that might eventually lead to non-social media forums –such as the newspaper or television news networks.  

            The United States still accounts for the largest number of Facebook users despite numbers that disclose that user growth of that particular social media website has slowed down. However, this slowing down by users is clearly not the case when it comes to a significant surge in Facebook growth across the globe. “The fastest growth in social network usage is happening in less-developed markets, however. India, with the highest growth this year, will increase user numbers by 37.4%, while Indonesia’s numbers will climb 28.7% and Mexico will grow its social network user base by 21.1%.” (http://www.emarketer.com/Article/India-Leads-Worldwide-Social-Networking-Growth/1010396#017ICg1X2DI0LtqQ.99)

While social media has a huge global reach, resulting in an influence that has impacted many countries, certain parts of the world have limited accessibility to it. In China, one of the leading economies in the world with a population well over a billion, Facebook is prohibited; the Internet is monitored and regulated by government officials that carefully filter information before it can be “exposed” to the public. China may have its own version of Facebook, but it still, however, does not allow users the same freedom to “share” information, with one another. Certain freedoms that are taken for granted in most countries of the free world –such as freedom of speech –that are still viewed as illegal in China, its use potentially leading to criminal charges.

Social media has become a powerful force in influencing world events. A perfect example of its power may be seen in how it effected regime change in Egypt. The fact that dictators and despots forbid their citizens access to social media only serves to acknowledge the influence of social media. The adage “information is power” is never truer than when it relates to social media. And, from just about all reports, it will only gain more popularity as individuals are able to connect with one another through it.    






Social Media

 At its core, social media is an online networking community that offers individuals a vehicle that through which they can connect with one another. Such media places at its users’ disposal a platform in which they are able to publicly share personal photos and/or opinions; exchange information; share stories. Perhaps most importantly, social media allows individuals the opportunity to globally interact with one another.

In a very limited period of time –only a decade or so –social media has managed to completely transform the landscape in which society currently functions. It has become such an important facet of everyday culture, so massively influential, that it has even proven to have the ability to change the course of politics. An example of that was how the 2011 Egyptian revolution was first ignited: social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter allowed Egyptians to stay connected and share information during the political uprising, with not only each other but also to other such outlets. Because valuable information was being exchanged on such public forums, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s declined to seek reelection.

The basic difference between social media and other non-social media forums and outlets is that in the former the user has control of what he or she posts, while in the latter, he or she does not. Social media allows an individual the opportunity to expose and/or draw attention to certain aspects of society to which the majority of the public may have never been.

For example, a recording on a cell phone of an officer performing a heroic act or abusing their power of authority can now be uploaded and virally shared on a global scale in nano seconds. Because of this ability, everyday citizens, in a way, have now become the new journalists, redefining the rules and regulations of how stories or information is gathered and, in an instant, publicly shared. There is a certain authenticity in social media that is rarely found in other non-social media forums where carefully monitored networks, pressured to appeal to both advertisers and specific demographics, ultimately results in selective reporting.

However, it seems as though such authenticity in social media become blurred once these forums transition into marketable, income producing companies, such as Facebook and it’s most recent purchase of Instagram. Facebook now is marketing to stockholders, investors and advertisers and, because of this new focus, the company has on multiple occasions, been scrutinized for selling their users private information to companies and potential advertisers. A result of this is that, while users still are able to control what content they choose to post, their information, however, is no longer their own. It belongs to the internet.

Social media has been proven to be extremely lucrative for a wide range of business and corporations, for not only does it offer businesses the opportunity to market and advertise on these major social media forums, it also offers invaluable insight on the public interest. There is also an element of how social media is able to communicate with certain business when sites such as Yelp offer users the platform to publicly “voice” an opinion on a restaurant. Yelp has been hugely influential in determining the level of success that a restaurant may or may not have. Because of this, there have been reports on restaurants hiring people to write positive reviews, hoping to attract potential customers. And again, this is where the positive aspects of social media once again get blurred; when financial motives begin to tamper with the authenticity of “information sharing,” the very essence of social media.

A side effect of social media that has to be addressed in any discussion of its effects is the lack of privacy that is the inevitable result of its ever-increasing popularity and influence. Any individual with a cell phone can record other individual’s activities in a public place, and subsequently post the photos or video on Facebook. Careers and reputations can and are destroyed in a few seconds- a drunken act; an unflattering pose; an ill-conceived comment- all those can determine impressions of a person. Individuals and corporations as diverse as human resource departments and college admission officers have been known to search social media to investigate a potential employee or student’s desirability. It is important to note that anything posted on the internet- whether on Facebook, Instagram, or other like social media- stays there forever. As is the case with marriage (it is much easier to get into than to get out of) it is much easier to post than to remove.      

As is the case with other technological advances (cable news; Kindle; digital photography, etc.), social media has both positive and negative features to it. For example, on the positive side, it allows users to connect with family and friends; on the negative, any sense of privacy is gone. Individuals must grow used to the fact that nothing is private anymore and that they can and are being filmed at any and all moments. That transparency, however, can be used to positive ends. Social media can be a double-edged sword. Individuals who use it must keep this in mind.