Social networking: more than a place for friends

By Gena Anderson |

It was a late July night when the sound of my vibrating phone on my nightstand woke me from my sleep. The bright glow of the LCD screen burned my retinas as I squinted to read that I had a message from Facebook. Ren Anderson would like to be your friend on Facebook. I set the phone down ignoring this person I assumed was probably from high school and fell peacefully back into my slumber.

Getting friend requests is kind of commonplace. According to the Neilsen 2010 Media Fact Sheet, the average facebook user sends 8 friend requests a month. I was in no rush to see who was trying to add me. Especially not in the wee early hours the morning.

When I finally did get online, I saw a message with the friend request. Ren Anderson was looking for her little sister. Could this girl, Ren, be my big sister Lauren? Once I saw her face there was no mistaking that we were sisters. The girl I had lost so long ago when my father walked out was now at my finger tips.

I am not alone. The internet has been bringing people together for awhile now. Everything from social networking sites, to video chat enabled programs, to the 117,000,000 results that pop up on Google when you search “find my missing relative online” has in some small way help us find, keep in contact, and create bonds to people who would not have served as significant roles in our lives had we not had this technology.

These digitally based relationships extend into the business world as well. Lauren Taistra, a Senior at Flagler College, has never met her current bosses. She was able to obtain “both of these positions via social networking on Twitter,” she said.

One of her bosses lives in Miami, Fla., and the other resides in New York City. Laistra communicates with them both through her cellphone and the internet.

Telecommuting, or communicating with employers using technologies such as telephones, fax machines, and computers, is becoming more and more popular in the U.S. According to the Telework Research Network, 2.8 million U.S. employees telecommuted in 2008.

Taistra said the opportunity for employment via social networking sites exists for everyone.

“If you have a Twitter account, be responsible with it,” she said. “Use it to outreach to ‘idols’ in your field that you may not know; it’s a great way to build a reputation and possibly get to know more about your industry.”

She encourages students to take notice of the fact that so much of “job hunting [is] going online, [and] it is important to use it as a platform to promote yourself.”

It actually wasn’t until after talking to Taistra that I realized that my incredibly part time job is also entirely internet based. I work for the Syndicate Street Marketing Team, where I take on campaigns to promote in my area.

I’ve heard it a lot, that the internet is making our society an anti-social one. I would disagree. I think that in many cases the internet and technology can simply make us more efficient at communicating if we allow it to.

Not everyone will land their dream job from Twitter, nor will they find their long lost sibling, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t benefit from telecommunication. Video chatting programs, like Skype, allow us to talk to our troops overseas. Facebook allows our friends and family from home to stay informed on what is happening in our lives. Twitter can be a great way to follow your idols and stay up-to-date on the trends in our industries. Our networks can span as large as we allow them to. Embrace these things responsibly and reap their benefits.

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