Social communication has always been a vital need to humanity. At its core, social communication did not change. People still exchange thoughts, feelings and news; however, the ways they socially communicate have radically changed. Online social networking is a recent form of social communication conducted over the internet. It is a structure made up of individuals ororganizations which are connected by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, common interest, business, sexual relationship, knowledge, reputability or even political reasons. It could be also defined as web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share aconnection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site. (Boyd & Ellison 2007). Logging on to digital social networking sites had been become obligatory for subscribers of Facebook, My Space,Twitter, Piczo, etc.
People of all age groups are becoming very obsessed with socialnetworks in this new technology era. Social networks are popular mediums for communication, interaction and knowledge sharing on the Internet. They depend on social networks as their main communication infrastructure rather than conventional communication methods.
Virtual Worlds are also becoming increasingly popular and available. Virtual worlds enthusiasts would point out that, in future, itcan be used as a platform for business world and education; these changes provide opportunities for distance teaching and learning, new study techniques, and research questions. “With increasingly pervasive high speed networking connections and the evolution of Internet technology, more social web based applications are becoming available to support real time three dimensional (3D) graphics andrich media integration over the internet” (Jin, Wen & Gough 2010 p.140)
On the other hand some researchers have claimed that these online interactions may supplement or replace in person interactions, soothing any loss from time spent online. When referring to our youth, the questions still remains, how this will affect their communication skills on a long term basis? As young children become moreand more obsessed with keeping up their online popularity with little sense of privacy, real life activities diminish. Face to face interactions becomes less of a priority. Some of society’s older and more traditional generation have said that today’s youth show a growing lack of respect and are far too concerned with their gadgets and gizmos, having no real communication and responsibility asthey themselves did growing up.
Acclaimed social media researcher Danah Boyd covers the question of youth and social networking in the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. Boyd explores the notion that Facebook has created a place in the online world for children to go and hang out. Boyd (cited in Ito et al. 2010, p. 80) states that “Justas they have done in parking lots and shopping malls, teens gather in networked public spaces for a variety of purposes, including to negotiate identity, gossip, support one another, jockey for status, collaborate, share information, flirt, joke, and goof around. In other words, they go there to “hang out.” By providing tools for mediated interactions, social media allow teens to extend theirinteractions beyond physical boundaries. Conversations and interactions that begin in person do not end when friends are separated. Youth complement private communication through messaging and mobile phones with social media that support broader peer publics”. The importance of online presence has taken over that of real life presence. Kids are no longer gathering in parking lots and shopping malls...