What is Social Networking?
In the days prior to the Internet people use to get together at social events and make friends within their geographic location. The old saying "It isn't what you know, but who you know" speaks to the power of a social network. With the advent of the Internet and the ability for people to connect over distances without a lot of difficulty or cost has changed the face of social networks. For more in depth information visit Wikipedia's Social Networkingarticle.
Connecting With Others
No matter the type of social networking that you want to do on the web the real goal is to connect with others. Social networks tend to be thought of as a way to reconnect with friends from high school or those that are already in high school. This is true, but groups are now finding that common interests are beginning to be built around these areas also. Most people think of World of WarCraft as a simple game on the computer. However the connection players have made with in the game has created a sense of community around the game. People are beginning to meet offline or as a group and go online. So the common interest in World of WarCraft has brought these people together.
Similar networks are being created by teachers. Through disjointed blogs, educators have begun to connect over interests that relate to classroom management, instructional and learning strategies and best practices in meeting curricular goals. People such as Will Richardson and Bud Hunt have used blogs to create their own social networks, promoting what they do.
Sites such as MySpace changes this dynamic by not making it necessary to do as much promotion, as well as enable people to search within a small area for like-minded individuals. They allow you to search for things of interest. So you might do a search for education or perhaps political science if you are interested in politics. These sites aren't Google. The goal is to connect with people in a way that allows you to find common ground.
So when you are searching you will be looking for people to discuss ideas about, like the same movies, or like the same band as you. Take these things and compare them with concepts in education. So you might want to search for people interested in writing poetry or literature. Who knows you may meet an upcoming playwright or film director who wants to share ideas with you and perhaps even your students.
Choose a personal interest you have and start exploring some of the sites mentioned below. No matter what tool you choose, there is a high probability that someone else shares that interest and they are online. Say, for example, you have an interest in digital single lens reflux (SLR) cameras. Using Flickr type "Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT" in the Flickr search box. What turns up might be several groups made up of people that own or use that particular camera. Joining one of these groups one might post questions, provide help to others and learn more about using their camera to take better photographs.
Read below about some of the popular social networking tools available. While there are many, many tools available (and surely countless more coming) these are just a few to get you started with making connections.
Places On The Internet
There are a few different online communities that have evolved on the Internet. If you want a sense on how big they have become you can view a representation of the communities created by Randall Munroe at xkcd.com.
One of the largest social networks on the Internet is MySpace. It has made headlines in the media and has now been blocked by many if not most school districts across the United States. The question is why has this been done?
The site originally started as a way for bands that weren't mainstream to connect with their fan base. So bands could log on, create an account, list some tour dates, and even play clips of their songs. The site quickly began to sky rocket in popularity. Fans began creating accounts to share with others what bands they liked, and then teenagers began to use the site as an alternative way to communicate when someone wasn't on IM. Now you could leave your best friend a note and they could get back to you once they looked at their MySpace page. Indeed this has caused people to be a bit addicted to MySpace checking it more often then their email.
Most people have seen the programs related to the problems with MySpace. The odd spam that appears and the fact that you might receive an invitation from someone you don't know. However in the same way you might use this or other sites to connect with like minded individuals.
Is an earlier Social Networking site and is similar to MySpace in how people connect. The main difference is that it hasn't made nearly the headlines that MySpace has. Friendster allows you to connect with people based more on the interests and affiliations that they have. This in someway liimits the interactions that occurs. However it still allow you to connect with people who might be interested to talk to you.
Another social network site that is a mix between the conventional web and the concept known as Web 2.0 is Del.icio.us. This site allows you to create a network around something that all Internet users love, their favorites.
Delicious allows you to take the websites that you like and bookmark them on the web. This then becomes social as you tag the sites you have with keywords and share them with other in your network. It is also social in the way that you can see what others are bookmarking.
For example say I am big into all different concepts of art. One of my bookmarks might be related to the Modern Museum of Art in New York City and an exhibit they had on Andy Warhol. I may have bookmarked the site since I like it. I would then be able to also see how many other people bookmarked the site.
Now I can take a look at who else has bookmarked the site and what it is they are bookmarking. This way I might find a great bookmark from another user showing recently displayed artwork from Andy Warhol that wasn't shown to the pulic, but rather only held by a private collector. I am now using the network of people to learn about what interests me.
While many websites offer sharing of digital photos, Flickr, takes sharing photos a few steps further. While uploading and storing pictures is one of Flickr's strongest features, the social networking aspect of Flickr makes it stand above most other photo sharing tools. With an account on Flickr members can upload, store and share photos as well as create a network of friends and family members. Using tags, one word descriptors similar to keywords, users can identify their photos or search other users photos. Flickr also makes it available to geotag photos where you can link your photos with their actual locations on a map. However, Flickr groups is where the real social networking takes place. By joining a Flickr group users can connect, discuss and learn from other members about particular intersts.
Bloglines is an RSS feed reader that is a portal to news and blogs of interest. With Bloglines, users may create their own virtual newspaper or social group tailored to their particular interests. Many professionals are using this as a means to expand, extend and continue professional conversations taking place face-to-face or online. You can learn more about Bloglines through the Bloglines wiki article.