Over the past few years experts have been debating the positive and negative effects of social networking and have come up with some interesting results. A psychiatrist at West London Mental Hospital by the name of Dr Himanshu Tyagi, maintains that youngsters born since the nineties have been negatively effected by interaction in social networking sites such as the likes of Bebo, MySpace and Facebook.
Why does he think this? He believes that these kids are likely to find the real world boring and will look to more extreme types of behaviour to get a kick out of life and that in the virtual world things happen much faster, relationships are begun and ended with the click of a mouse and you can reinvent yourself in your online profile whenever you want to. This, he maintains, is putting youngsters at risk as they no longer value their real world identities as much as their online ones. His views weren’t completely negative though, he did think that social networking sites promoted a more equal status with other factors such as wealth, gender and ethnic background playing much less of a role.
A completely different view is taken by Eryn Grant, a PhD student at Queensland University in Australia who conducted an in depth study into social order in new online environments and part of the study involved actively participating in the social networking site Second Life. This is a site where people communicate for social and business purposes using avatars in a 3D interface. The results indicated that this type of communication made it easier to communicate with strangers in a new environment. In the real world there aren’t many places we can go where we are guaranteed social contact according to Grant so it is harder to strike up a conversation with a stranger.
Regardless of what the experts say, social networking is extremely popular amongst all ages, not only the young, and this trend does look set to continue. In fact probably the most worrying part for most online social networkers is being able to manage and update not one but several online profiles at the same time.