Bringing Us Closer and Keeping Us
Bringing Us Closer and Keeping Us
  • 임남규 기자, 박주희 기자
  • 승인 2010.11.11 12:13
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In modern times when we part with friends and associates it no longer has to be inconvenient because it is much easier to keep in touch whenever we want through online social networking sites. Recently, many people have created their own online space through these sites. Social networking sites are services which allow users to enter into network relationships in order to make and maintain personal connections online. These networks include Twitter, Facebook, and Cyworld. Through social networking sites, relationships are moving from offline spaces to cyberspace. We decided to take a closer look at the various aspects of these different social networking sites, such as how they are used and concerns about the impact of these sites expressed by netizens and society. Social networking sites provide services which allow users to form networks of friends on the web. The predominant social networking site in Korea is Cyworld. These sites have spread even more quickly corresponding with the release of smart phones in 2009. Celebrities like Oi-Soo Lee, Yong-Man Park (CEO of Doosan Corporation), Hyun-Myung Pyo (CEO of KT), Bill Gates, Jeremy Scott, and Oprah Winfrey use Twitter. As more celebrities make use of these services the public will also be more likely to increase their use as well. The number of SNS(Social Network Service) users is also increasing in Korea. The number of Twitter users has increased from 10,000 people in September 2007 to 20,000 people in September 2008, 40,000 people in September 2009, and a million people in August 2010. Facebook users have also increased from 550,000 people in April 2010, 900,000 people in June 2010, and 1,250,000 people in August 2010 to 1,530,000 people in September 2010. Cyworld users have also increased from 22 million in September 2008 to 25 million as of September 2010.

Driving Force behind the Successful Spread of Social Networks
Online social networks provide outlets for individual mass media which allows users to express their character, ideas, or concerns to whoever is interested in reading them. According to a survey by the digital media convergence company DMC media, about 83.6% of the people replied that they make use of social networking sites to one extent or another. The most common reasons for using online social networks are maintaining friendships and personal connections as well as the mutual exchange of information. Social networking has experienced a boost from the increased use of smart phones. 87% of Twitter account holders also have smart phones. People who have smart phones can access their social networks anywhere and anytime they want. Recently, many celebrities in various fields have also begun to make use of these sites. Many people want to know about them and feel like they are part of a celebrity’s individual life story, and now they can do it by accessing their favorite celebrity’s online social network.

Age Group Preferences and the Purpose of
Using Social Networks As for Korea, people in their twenties prefer Cyworld, those in their thirties prefer Twitter and forty somethings prefer blogs. The use of social networks by people in their thirties and forties has seen a gradual but significant increase. People in their thirties use Twitter to exchange information. Users in these age groups are at the center of the information-oriented society. Each networking site’s main purpose is different. For example, Twitter is used for the rapid exchange of information and Facebook is used for business as well as managing personal connections. In these ways, the influence of social networking sites is having a larger and larger impact on daily life. These sites are used for discussion, friendship, and business among other things. The growth of social networks has been dramatic and there is now a synergistic relationship between these sites and culture and

Using SNS in Various Fields of Society
Many companies have adopted social networking sites to improve management and create a more dynamic atmosphere within the office and to give employees energy. In the case of 'Dell', it adopted a mobile social network Employee Storm), so employees could interact in order to come up with more creative ideas and to foster a cooperative work environment that was more comfortable than a plain old office. A modern company can better understand public opinion regarding their goods in real time by making use of social networking sites. Therefore, the companies can be better aware of what to do in case of an emergency. Recently, the main purpose of marketing has changed from generating sales for profit to interaction with consumers for profit. In the case of LG, they posted articles about the 'Sudden attack on the making of fake cell phones' and 'Why Hollywood stars clean their blue carpets with LG vacuums.' These articles were passed through social networks and there has been a noticeable increase in sales. Now, when a company is victimized by negative publicity, the company can react quickly and not only with a simple press release, but through their blogs and witter. This also allows companies to control what information gets released and how it is interpreted by the public, which in turn allows them to explain their position more actively. On the other hand, there are some drawbacks to social network marketing. Companies must always pay attention to consumer opinion on the Internet. If misinformation is spread about their company, the company could be exposed to financial difficulty. In the case of small and medium sized companies, they often lack the ability to cope with crisis management. Therefore, the government should take a greater interest in these matters. Optimizing Social Networks to Politics Politicians can introduce and promote their policies or proposals through their social networking sites. This allows the politician to break major news on their own without using news outlets. Politicians hope to make use of viral marketing. Viral marketing is a situation whereby pre-existing social networks are used to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, similar to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. Viral marketing is not only used to introduce goods and services but also for political issues. This method is a good way to raise awareness and build reputations. Social networks have also been used for elections. The opposition parties won many local elections last June. The use of social networks allowed the opposition parties to re-create their image. In the case of the most recent presidential election in the USA, John McCain and Barack Obama both made extensive use of social networks as part of their campaign strategies.

Social Networks for Effective Communication
(Statistical Data: Korea Internet & Security Agency)
The primary purpose of social networking sites is to establish human networks. In today’s digital society social networks have become an essential part of our lives. This also does not seem to be a passing fad, 86.9% of social network users have been using one or more services for more than three years. Social networks are used for making and managing friendships, so most people who use them do so for a long time. 93.6% of network users answered that "My purpose for using online networking sites is to make more personal connections."

Problems with Online Social Networking Sites
Many new types of crime have become a part of our lives because individual privacy has become very easy to expose through searches on the Internet. It is possible to connect with each other in real time and to circulate malicious codes as well as induce phishing website by using shortened URLs. We often believe that these sites have been constructed between users to exchange information and to communicate, but that is not always the case. There are many scams that induce individuals to input personal information through spam ads. There are also many tricks employed by hackers that make use of simple and efficient techniques that allow them to find people’s passwords in blogs and on message boards. One of the most common methods for a hacker is to impersonate a celebrity and induce people to enter their personal information on a fake website. They can also steal another person’s identity by finding out their identification number. This allows them to misrepresent themselves and allows them to speak in that person’s name in order to defame celebrities and take unreasonable benefits. Sex offenders can commit crimes easily because they can meet strangers anonymously. For example, a British man recently sexually assaulted and murdered an adolescent he met through Facebook. There are some measures that the government can take to prevent these crimes. They have to implement a thorough inspection system for all of these sites. They must also make the public aware of different kinds of Cyber crimes and draw the public’s attention to indicators of these kinds of crimes and what to avoid when making use of these sites. Finally they must strengthen punishments for cyber crimes. Another concern is the disappearance of personal human relations. This problem has been magnified by digital systems. This system has created a level of carelessness regarding communication from person to person and a lack of accountability. Digital communication has become mostly one-way. This is especially true of networks used by celebrities. Although we know the celebrity, we can’t actually interact with them because the system is one-way, and it is also indirect. Most social networking sites were originally set-up to have direct two-way communications but they are being used more and more as platforms to simply deliver information. This system guarantees a wide variety of relations but it is difficult to create strong bonds because there is no back and forth communication. Many people live vicariously through their virtual self. This allows them to express their feelings and opinions freely, but it is also possible to get too caught up in this cyber-persona. This leads to other problems as well. The issue of anonymity is a very important one. Everyone has the right to anonymity, but often this right is abused and people behave what they like because there is no accountability. There are also issues of people becoming 'cyber shut-ins' who cease interaction with the real world because they become too involved with their cyber reality. We should use online social networks as a tool to recover and expand human relationships. Social networks need to be less anonymous in order to make the exchange of information more firmly based in reality. This can lead to face to face meetings offline like the ones mentioned above involving Oi-Soo Lee and Je-Dong Kim. We are well aware of problems dealing with invasion of privacy. Hacking is a persistent problem. There seem to be more hackers and hacking programs every day. As a result, 54% of social network users feel a little bit uneasy when they use these services. The main cause of these uneasy feelings regards the exposure of personal information. These worries are amplified by the continuing recognition of inadequate security
systems employed by the networking companies. A few months ago, the records of 2 million Cyworld users were exposed. In the case of Twitter, anyone can join without systematic certification, so there are many representatives. In cases where a system requires some kind of certification, an identification number generator can be used. The quality of information that gets passed is also an issue. A lot of information exchanged on social networking sites is uncertainbecause many users communicate with short references. Therefore, they focus on expressing their emotions, such as gossip rather than taking responsibility for their references. This leads to leaks of uncertain and illogical information. A more serious problem is that a lot of users believe rumors about celebrities unconditionally. There is an example which illustrates this problem well. In 2009, Patrick Swayze, an American actor, was sick but hadn’t died yet. However, there were some groundless rumors that announced his death before he actually died. These sites have also led to an imbalance of opinion in many cases. The vast majority of blog traffic is accounted for by a very small number of bloggers. This has led to the majority of people being drowned out by the bigger and more popular bloggers who use their followers and fans to simply pass on their opinions through their own social networks.  We are living in a rapidly changing society, and the use of online social networks is one of the greatest indicators of this fact. Like any other great innovation there are many positives and negatives associated with these services. They certainly make keeping in touch and maintaining relationships at a distance easier, and they also allow us to get our own thoughts and opinions and information out to the rest of the world unfiltered. These developments could be seen as being positive or negative based on your point of view. Making relationships easier could be seen as a good thing, but there are those who would argue that making the maintenance of relationships too easy devalues them. In the past, maintaining a long distance friendship was difficult and you did not make the effort unless that person was very important to you. This made that relationship more special and on those rare occasions when you were able to meet those meetings really meant something. Now it is too easy and we have online 'friends' that we probably would never make the effort to 'keep in touch' with if not for these sites. There is also the issue of accountability. When does filtering information become censorship? It is a fine line, but the fact that major media outlets fear legal trouble if they distribute rumors or false information makes them accountable. With no fear of any kind of legal trouble we all feel free to say whatever we want. Is that always a good thing? In order to make the best use of these networks we must all be responsible. That means we need to understand that casual relationships and remarks made online are not always positive. Once we all decide to understand more about what goes into making and maintaining these relationships responsibly online social networks could be one of the best things to ever happen to us.

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