What are social networks?

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What Does Social networks Mean

We explain what social networks are and how they are classified. In addition, its history, its advantages, criticisms and most negative aspects.

Social networks allow the exchange of information between people.

What are social networks?

Social networks are digital platforms formed by communities of individuals with common interests, activities or relationships (such as friendship , relationship, work). Social networks allow contact between people and function as a means to communicate and exchange information .

Individuals do not necessarily have to know each other before coming into contact through a social network, but they can do so through it, and that is one of the greatest benefits of virtual communities .

See also: Web 2.0

Types of social networks

Social networks can be classified into two types:

  • Horizontal or generic social networks. They are those social networks that do not have a specific theme, but rather target all types of users . These networks function as means of communication , information or entertainment. They are very numerous and popular, for example: Facebook or Twitter.
  • Vertical social networks. They are those social networks that relate people with specific interests in common, such as music , hobbies, sports . For example: Flickr, a social network whose theme is photography . Within these networks are professional vertical networks, such as LinkedIn, which involve individuals who share the work environment or who seek to expand their work boundaries.

In general, entering a social network is very simple since it simply involves filling out a questionnaire with basic personal data and thus obtaining a username and password that will be used by the user to enter the network privately. As long as the user meets the requirements for registration in said network (for example, age of majority), they can do so simply and quickly.

Origin and evolution of social networks

The nineties were characterized by the appearance of the web ( www ), a technology that facilitated the access of a large number of people to the Internet . Social networks have their origin in the second half of the nineties and have been developing from then until today.

Classmates is considered the first social network. It was created in 1995 by the American Randy Conrads. This social network sought to virtually connect former college and university colleagues. As the project was successful, new networks began to appear whose purpose was to bring together friends and acquaintances.

In 1997 SixDegrees was created, a network that allowed to contact other members of the network, create a profile, build lists of friends. SixDegrees was based on the "six degrees of separation" theory, which states that all people are six people away from anyone else on the planet. This social network was active until 2001.

In 2003, Friendster emerged , a network that made it possible to contact other members and share content online with them (photos, videos, links). It was active with a large presence of users until 2015. In 2003 , LinkedIn was also created , a labor social network to search, recommend or offer a job.

In response to the popularity of Friendster, MySpace emerged in 2003. Created by a marketing agency , this network was especially dedicated to music and technology. By 2009, MySpace was the social network with the highest user traffic .

MySpace lost its grip with the arrival and rise of Facebook , which emerged in 2004 and was very popular due to its platform, the growing development of the Internet and the emergence of mobile devices with Internet connection. In fact, in the first decade of the 21st century, some of the social networks with the largest number of users emerged.

In 2005, the YouTube video platform emerged , which was acquired by Google in 2006. In 2006, Twitter, a microblogging social network, appeared. In 2010, Instagram was created, which allows you to share videos and photos; and Pinterest, which allows users to create personal boards with images, writing and videos.

In 2011 Snapchat was created, the social network that popularized ephemeral messaging. Although it was hugely popular and one of the fastest growing apps, Snapchat lagged behind Facebook when Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and then WhatsApp in 2014.

One of the latest developments in social networks is Tik-Tok , a platform of Chinese origin that allows you to create and share videos. In 2018 it merged with Musical.ly and is one of the networks with the largest flow of young users, available in 39 languages.

The story behind Facebook and Twitter

Facebook was created in 2004 by Harvard students.

Some of the most popular social networks are Facebook and Twitter.

  • Facebook. It was created in 2004 by a group of students led by Mark Zuckerberg, with the aim of keeping in contact with the students of Harvard University (USA). Facebook began to gain popularity in the student environment, to later expand its target. Before long, anyone with an email account could join. The translation of the network into several languages allowed its worldwide expansion. Today this social network has more than 2000 million users.
  • Twitter It was created in 2006 and is a social network that allows you to publish short texts (140 characters long), which are popularly known as “tweets” and which appear on the home page of the user who publishes them. Each individual subscribed to the network, can choose to "follow" other users and see the content of their publications.

For what are the social network good for?

  • Communicate and share. Social networks function as platforms for the exchange of information or opinion. Depending on the type of network, the functionalities and the type of communication established between users vary . In many of them, users can share images, videos, documents, opinions and information.
  • Maintain or establish contact. Networks allow all people who have access to the Internet to create a user on the network and connect with others around the planet who are also attached to that social network. They allow you to communicate with friends, family, make new friends, find a partner, establish work or professional relationships.
  • Inform. The large volume of information that circulates on social networks allows users to stay informed about important events or topics of interest. Most networks allow you to create a user and customize the type of information that will be displayed on the network.
  • Entertain yourself. Social networks create communities of users with similar interests on certain topics. These networks function as a great source of entertainment and relaxation.
  • Sell buy. Many social networks have emerged as channels for the purchase and sale of goods or services. On platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, the user can follow businesses , businesses or independent workers that they like and establish business relationships with them.

Characteristics of social networks

  • They are formed by a virtual community : they are massive communities that extend throughout the planet.
  • Pueden ser utilizadas desde computadoras, tablets o dispositivos móviles .
  • Son de acceso gratuito , aunque muchas de ellas ofrecen mayores funcionalidades a cambio de un pago mensual o anual.
  • Brindan información en tiempo real.
  • Permiten a cada usuario crear un perfil dentro de la red.

Ventajas de las redes sociales

Las redes sociales tienen una serie de ventajas o beneficios, lo que les ha permitido consolidarse como uno de los protagonistas indiscutidos dentro de la web.

  • They are immediate. Social networks work in real time. The information, videos, images and opinions that are shared on the networks are usually made public and can be immediately known by any user of the network almost anywhere on the globe. On some platforms such as Twitter, social, cultural, political or economic, regional or world events are known to all its users instantly.
  • They are massive. Social networks have broken down cultural and age barriers as they reach a large portion of the population.
  • They shorten distances. Social networks allow you to communicate with friends, family and any user of the network regardless of geographical distance.
  • Increase the visibility of brands. In recent years, advertising and the creation of corporate and brand profiles have made social networks a new market. They allow to connect buyers and sellers from all over the world. They facilitate customer service.
  • They function as a channel for learning, entertainment and information. Social networks work as a means to viralize certain information. Depending on the content in which the user is interested, they will be able to learn, entertain or be informed.
  • They allow information to be shared . Networks allow you to share files instantly and easily: documents, music, photos, videos.
  • They provide job opportunities. There are networks that make it possible to publicize the work profile of users. Some, like LinkedIn, were created with the specific goal of building professional communities. There, companies create profiles from which job opportunities are offered to which interested users can apply.

Negative aspects of social media

Social networks have some negative aspects that every user must fight:

  • Cyberbullying. It is one of the main risks of social networks and occurs when an individual or group of individuals harasses or harasses another through social networks. This can occur through insults, viralization of private information, among other ways. Children must be educated so that they know the physical and psychological consequences that this type of practice can cause.
  • Grooming. It is one of the biggest dangers in cyberbullying. Also called "pedophile deception", it consists of adult harassment of minors through social networks. Grooming is a criminal offense and must be reported.
  • The fake news. It is the false or unchecked information that circulates thanks to the excess of information that is on the Internet. This can cause confusion for users and difficulty understanding events.
  • Indiscriminate access to sensitive content. There is content on the networks of a sexual or violent nature, which is often inappropriate, especially for vulnerable social groups such as children.
  • Abuse in the use of social networks. Excessive use of social media can lead to loss of contact with the tangible world and lead to addiction.
  • The viralization of information. It is the massive reproduction of information. It can be a positive aspect when the information that is viralized is to the liking of the individual, but it can be negative when confidential information is viralized or that it harms an individual in some way by losing their privacy.

More in: Risks and dangers of social networks

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