What Are the Causes of Social Networking?

by Alex Saez

Social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace are household names. They allow users to connect, communicate and share media like photos and videos. What may not be well known is what sparked the creation of social networking. Since 1997, different patterns of demand, imitation and gradual expansion caused social networks to transform from basic, obscure sites to complex, popular ones.

Social Networking Explained

In order to understand what caused social networking websites, these mediums need to be defined. Dana Boyd from the University of California and Nicole Ellison of Michigan State University define social networking sites as places where people can create a "public or semi-public profile" in a system, connect with other users, and view their or their peers' information.

Demand

By 1997, the Internet was becoming increasingly popular, attracting more and more users. This new communication medium gave people a desire to connect with others. To that end, Sixdegrees.com was created as the first social networking website. Its functions were quite basic. People could set up a profile with a list of friends, browse these lists, and message others. However, the demand exceeded what Sixdegrees.com could provide. Users complained that there was little else to do besides accept and list friends. Still, this demand was the catalyst for the creation of complex social networking sites in the future.

Borrowing

Between 1997 and 2001, the desire to socialize inspired more innovative and advanced forms of social networking. Creators of different networking websites studied others and molded their own creations after them. While more complex social and dating websites had emerged, professional social networking arose as well. Ryze.com was created in 2001 exclusively geared toward businesspeople and investors. Ryze led to a collaboration with other businesses that resulted in the creation of Tribe, LinkedIn and Friendster. Of those four, Tribe enjoyed moderate success while LinkedIn achieved mass popularity among professionals. It was this free sharing of ideas that contributed to the causes of social networking sites.

Audience Expansion

Since a user base is necessary for a social networking site to flourish, broadening the audience causes them to grow. In 2003, MySpace was launched. Originally, it became a popular site for independent rock bands who had left Friendster. In turn, fans of those bands began signing up. Their teenage fan base wanted to stay in touch, so by 2004, teenagers were frequently signing up. Other teens were introduced to MySpace through older friends and family. As this demographic grew on MySpace, they encouraged their peers to join as well. Through word of mouth, MySpace's popularity increased exponentially. Facebook arose in a similar gradual fashion. Originally, membership was limited to Harvard students. Eventually, it expanded to all college and high school members before becoming open to everyone.

Defense

According to a CBS report, a drawback of social networks like Facebook is that employers often use it to investigate potential applicants. If a potential employer sees something that he finds inappropriate, that could undermine an individual's chances of being hired. As a preventative measure, networks such as Ziggs have appeared. Like LinkedIn, Ziggs is a professional social network, but with an added benefit. Not only does it allow people to create professional profiles, but this site is designed to have those accounts usually come up first during Internet searches.

About the Author

Alex Saez is a writer who draws much of his information from his professional and academic experience. Saez holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Queen's University and an advanced diploma in business administration, with a focus on human resources, from St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario.

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