Social Networks VS Social Networking

A recent study on social networking came to my attention yesterday and it sparked a discussing with Bevan that we vowed to continue on the blog. The study which surveyed 13,000 adults between 18 and 65 in 17 developed nations found that 58% did not know what social networking is (30% in the US). Of those who said they participated in social networks, about a 3rd said they were losing interest, with 45% of American social networking participants answering they are losing interest.

Some interesting stats from the study: 40% of Americans participate in social networks though across the 17 markets surveyed the number was 26%. The US is still lead by the Netherlands, UAE and Canada.

Reading about the study I found myself wondering “What is the half life of social networks?” by which I mean, how long do you have to be engaged in the activity before you loose interest? I myself am not particularly interested in the traditional social networking technology anymore, I’m among the 45% of people in the US that are losing interest.

At the same time, I am more interested than ever in what has come to be called “Social Media”. And this is where the lively discussing started with Bevan. There are “social networks,” websites with the explicit purpose of finding and connecting to friends and staying up to date in some way or other with those friends — think Friendster, MySpace, Facebook. These sites offer an array of technology that could be called “social networking technology” that enable activities that we could call “social networking.”

The activity of social networking, which was not invented a few years ago on the internet, involves developing relationships, fostering conversations, sharing experiences, learning and teaching — I’m not losing interest in that! I think we are seeing more of this activity enabled by some social networking technologies on what we have now come to call “social media” sites. On Twitter, or FriendFeed, or Flickr people are “social networking,” they are finding others, making connections, developing relationships and sharing, but I don’t think of Twitter as a “social networking site” though I suppose it could be.

I think most people have shared some variation on my experience with social networks: you join, you find your friends, you check out a few features, you lose interest, you start getting friend requests from people you don’t know, or don’t want to know anymore, and then you basically drift away from the site. Or the alternative experience where you join, can’t find anyone you know, and don’t come back. So dies these kind of social networks have a future? Or will the future of social networking be embedding the activity into all manner of other sites and paring it with other more compelling activities?

Social Networks vs. Social Networking, discuss…

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