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Are social networks real communities?

Are social networks real communities?

Are Social Networks like Facebook real communities? Why or why not?

written by Maya Nylund, Grade 10 student

According to recent report issued by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, the average American spends 2 hours a day on online social networking programs. This statistic includes Americans who do not use social networks at all. Beyond that, this statistic is an indication of a global trend which is glaringly obvious to just about anyone living in the 21st century- social networks have become an essential thread in the fabric of modern life.

Our lives are heavily and increasingly dominated by technology, and by extension, the internet. In the internet we find another world; one constructed of criss-crossing cables and radio waves, down which we send strings of 0s and 1s transmitted and accessed on display screens in the form of characters and pixels. It is through this system that some of our most vital personal, political, and business-related communications are relayed. Our virtual interactions, and the personas we cultivate online, can have as large an impact on our day to day life as any factor in what we traditionally regard as the “real” world.

It is not uncommon to hear groups of users of the networks which the internet enables, such as Facebook or YouTube, being referred to as “communities”. Personally, I believe this to be a very valid, appropriate word choice. A community is defined as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”. It is evident that these online “communities” are usually defined as such under the latter half of this definition; social network users share the mere fact of use of networks as a common characteristic.

Furthermore, just like in our more corporeal communities, there are smaller communities within each network. Membership to these communities often, but not always, correlates with membership in communities tied to actual events and locations. For example, I am a member of the Facebook community who has also marked myself as the former student of an international school of Stockholm and a member of the EFA community based on the Facebook groups I have joined, the friends I have and the specific media I choose to consume via Facebook. Sometimes such communities act as an extension of those we form off-line, and sometimes they are a means of keeping these “real-world” communities intact, such as through alumni groups or the group chats of old acquaintances. However, sometimes they are something entirely their own, in which users who have no relation to each other whatsoever are enabled to come together under a specific interest, characteristic of purpose, an occurrence which I see as more than befitting of the term “community”.

To go a step further, I would say that the internet may be considered a space of its own, and the community of users who log onto it everyday are in closer proximity to each other than we generally think. I believe that the reason why a community is first defined as “a group of people living in the same place” is not only because location entails identity, culture and history, but because a lack of distance is the primary means through which communities have been formed in the past. When establishing a community requires physical closeness, as it usually did prior to the speedy communication allowed through social networks, it seems natural that its definition would be limited by space. However, when we consider the internet as a world of its own, of a space which we inhabit every time we open up a social media app or log onto a wifi network, and through which proximity to anyone is possible, and thus the formation or invitation of almost anyone into a community is possible, whether their computers and themselves are in Delhi or D.C. It seems to me that social networks form more concrete, elaborate, extensive communities than ever before seen. In fact, I believe it could be said that social networking communities are not only “real”, but perhaps even more real than those we foster outside of it.

Are Social Networks like Facebook real communities? Why or Why not?

written by Qinlin “Lydia” Yu, IBY2 student

As I posted on my friend’s Facebook timeline to wish her happy birthday just now, I saw many blessings flood the page. All the “happy birthday”s lined up nicely in a fashion that gave me a warm feeling. It was as if I was at a convivial birthday party, where the colorful balloons and the sweet aroma of the birthday cake surrounded the ecstatic crowd. Indeed, it was only an illusion engendered from a Facebook timeline. But when I was drawn back into the reality, the feeling and memory remained tangible.

The world is only made more wonderful because of the different opinions and ideas. Some praise the internet and social media for bringing the society convenience and inclusiveness. But there are many arguments against the use of social media because of its negative influence on people. Online social networks like Facebook can be deceptive and misleading. There is wrong information, fake people, and fabricated products that try to lure people in to gain profit. For teenagers, especially, with their own values and ideals not yet fully developed, they can be easily drawn to the wrong trail by what seems to be attractive. Just like in the nature, the colorful, attractive species are likely to be noxious. It’s difficult for younger people to have the self-control and discretion to make good decisions.

However, the consequence of fraud and harm online is reflected in real life. The more severe virtual phenomenon is cyberbullying. Conversations that are communicated online set people unfettered with their language. As long as there’s no actual punishment, malicious comments online are ubiquitous. How the victims feel are real, and they will carry the scars with them from the virtual dimension to the real world. The world behind the screens is not very different from the real world. The deception and indifference that we see online are not unseen in the reality. In the real world, the results are more direct and deleterious. But similar to the real world, the internet also contains and delivers happiness and inspirations. Before I arrived at EF Academy, I was already connected with my prospective classmates on the Facebook group. The warmth and hopeful expectation that we all got from the cheerful self-introductions could never be replaced by anything in the real world. It was even more exciting to match our facebook friends with the real people when we walked around the campus.

Going to a foreign country and living in a boarding school can be initially intimidating. But nothing can prepare us better than the Facebook group we had before the school year started. It was as if we were not going to a new place with all strangers, but we were returning to somewhere we were already familiar with. Whether the social media is real or not, it all depends on how we view and use it. As long as we utilize it with good cause, we will get encouraging results and feelings that are real.



Students at our international boarding schools make life-long friends, experience the culture of their host country and find their passion in the sports, clubs and activities that inspire them most. Our student life program is powered by their engagement and school spirit.