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Social Networking: What is it?
Social networking is the process whereby users join an online community and form their own social groups based on commonalities such as hobbies and occupations. The social networking process begins when users register and create a profile (an autobiographical sketch with a recent photograph) of themselves and publish it for the world (or a selected group) to see. They can then search out other users and add them to their own groups. If you are looking to make some new connections or catch up with old friends, consider the following before choosing a social network:
Purpose: What is your reason for joining a social network? Do you want to connect with old high school friends or exchange ideas with other professionals in your area? Different social networking sites cater to different needs. For example, deviantART is an online community for artists to exhibit their works. LinkedIn and Ryze are designed for entrepreneurs and other professionals to form business networks. Fubar is an online dating site for those 18 or older. VampireFreaks is an online community for the Gothic culture. Remember to research your target audience or network before you join.
Security: How comfortable do you feel about sharing your personal details with the rest of the world? Social networkers who overexpose themselves run the risk of identity theft, fraud, and cyber-bullying. Keep personal information such as your address, telephone number, and banking information to yourself and away from your public profile. Remember, what you choose to display on your profile is not just limited to yourself or your inner circle, but can also be viewed by potential employers, colleagues, law-enforcers, marketers, or online predators. Exercise caution when posting pictures, profiles, or any other type of information that can identify or incriminate you.
Regional Popularity: Où êtes-vous allé à l'école? If you were educated in France, then Trombi might be for you. This social networking site was created to help users find and re-connect with old classmates in France. If you’ve never attended school in France and cannot speak French to save your life, this site may not be for you. Remember to verify the regional popularity of your social network so that you can find other users in your area with ease and receive tips, tricks, and technical support from others around you.
Add-ons, other features: Are you looking for a site with static features that allow you to post pictures and journal entries, or are you looking for a site with interactive features such as chatting and online games? Remember to keep a list of features that you would like to have on your social network and shop around accordingly. Sites such as Flickr and LiveJournal allow you to keep either written or photographic journals of yourself without the added features of chatting or gaming. Sites such as Facebook and Bebo contain both static and interactive features that allow you to create multiple choice quizzes where you can poll your friends and allow them to post messages on your board.
Social Networking 101
What is social networking? This article series defines social networking and includes practical advice on choosing a network, in addition to summarizing some of the most common social networks out there.