What are social networks?

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

Social networks allow information to be exchanged between people.

What are social networks?

Social networks are  digital platforms formed by communities of individuals  with interests, activities or relationships in common (such as friendship, kinship, 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 making contact  through a social network, but they can do so through it, and that is one of the greatest benefits of virtual communities.

 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 are aimed at 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 same workplace or who seek to expand their labor 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, being of legal age), 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 developed since 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 connect former college and university classmates virtually. As the project was successful, new networks began to appear whose purpose was to gather friends and acquaintances.

In 1997 SixDegrees was created, a network that allowed contact with 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 everyone is six people away from every other person on the planet. This social network was active until 2001.

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

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

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

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 sharing videos and photos; and Pinterest, which allows users to create personal boards with images, writing, and videos.

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

One of the latest events on 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 students from Harvard University (USA) in touch. Facebook began to gain popularity in the student environment, to later expand its target. Soon 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 2 billion users.
  • Twitter. It was created in 2006 and is a social network that allows you to publish short texts (140 characters), which are popularly known as “tweets” and appear on the home page of the user who publishes them. Each individual subscribed to the network can choose to “follow” other users and view the content of their posts.

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 great flow 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.
  • be entertained Social networks create communities of users with similar interests on certain topics. These networks work as a great source of entertainment and relaxation.
  • Sell ​​buy. Many social networks have emerged as channels for buying and selling 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.

Social Media Features

  • They are formed by a virtual community : they are massive communities that extend throughout the planet.
  • They can be used from computers, tablets or mobile devices .
  • They are free to access , although many of them offer greater functionality in exchange for a monthly or annual payment.
  • They provide information in real time.
  • They allow each user to create a profile within the network.

Advantages of social networks

Social networks have a series of advantages or benefits, which has allowed them to establish themselves as one of the undisputed protagonists on the 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 known by any user of the network in almost any part of the globe immediately. On some platforms such as Twitter, social, cultural, political or economic, regional or world events are instantly known to all its users.
  • 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 communication with friends, family and any user of the network regardless of geographical distance.
  • Increase brand visibility. In recent years, advertising and the creation of corporate and brand profiles have made social networks a new market. They allow buyers and sellers from all over the world to connect. They facilitate customer service.
  • They function as a channel for learning, entertainment and information. Social networks function as means to viralize certain information. Depending on the content in which the user is interested, they can learn, be entertained or informed.
  • They allow information to be shared . Networks allow instant and easy file sharing: documents, music, photos, videos.
  • They provide job opportunities. There are networks that make it possible to publicize the employment 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 networks

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

  • 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. Boys and girls must be educated so that they are aware of the physical and psychological consequences that this type of practice can cause.
  • The grooming. It is one of the greatest dangers within cyberbullying. Also called “pedophile deceit”, it consists of the harassment of adults towards 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 on the Internet. This can cause confusion for users and difficulty in understanding the events.
  • Indiscriminate access to sensitive content. There is sexual or violent content on the networks, which is often inappropriate, especially for vulnerable social groups such as children.
  • Abuse in the use of social networks. Excessive use of social networks can lead to loss of contact with the tangible world and cause addiction.
  • The viralization of information. It is the mass reproduction of information. It can be a positive aspect when the information that goes viral is liked by the individual, but it can be negative when confidential information goes viral or that harms an individual in some way by losing their privacy.