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Online social networking rises: Good or bad?

Posted: October 21, 2009 11:53 a.m.
Updated: October 21, 2009 6:05 p.m.
SANTA MONICA (PRNewswire-USNewswire) -- Are social networking Web sites good for our society?, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public charity dedicated to promoting critical thinking, created the new Web site to explore this core question.

Social networking and blogging sites accounted for 17 percent (about one in every six minutes) of all time spent on the Internet in August 2009, nearly three times as much as in 2008. The popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more than quadrupled from 2005 to 2009. As of Sep. 15, 2009, Facebook had 90 million users in the U.S. and 300 million users worldwide.

The debate on social networking sites centers on whether the benefits outweigh the dangers. Proponents argue that social networking sites promote increased communication with friends and family, familiarize more people with valuable computer skills, and allow contact with people from around the world.

The amount of time Americans spent on social networking sites increased 83 percent from 2008 to 2009. U.S. advertisers spent an estimated $1.4 billion to place ads on social-networking sites in 2008 and advertising expenditures are predicted to rise to $2.6 billion by 2012, indicating the rising influence of these sites in modern society.

Opponents argue that these sites expose children to predators, increase vulnerability to computer viruses, lower worker productivity, and promote narcissism and short attention spans.

The fraudulent act of attempting to acquire personal information for identity theft, called phishing, increased 240 percent on social networking sites from 2008 to 2009.

Two-thirds of businesses fear that social networking sites endanger corporate security, and one in four users of social networking sites unwittingly leaves themselves open to crime by revealing personal details.

The purpose of social networking is to help people think critically about this topic so they can make better decisions about their use of social networking sites. The site contains a detailed overview of the issue, over 20 pro-and-con arguments, fun facts in the "Did You Know?" section, an image and video gallery, a reader survey, and a listing of all sources used.

Three of the "Did You Know" facts from the Web site include:
1. Russians spend more time on social networking sites than people in any other country, an average of 6.6 hours per month compared to the worldwide average of 3.7 hours per month.

2. On Nov. 3, 2008, the day before the U.S. Presidential election, Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama had 2,379,102 Facebook supporters while Republican candidate John McCain had 620,359. Obama had 833,161 MySpace friends and McCain had 217,811. Obama had 384 percent more Facebook supporters and 383 percent more MySpace friends than McCain.

3. Forty-three precent of online sexual solicitors were identified as being adolescents (under 18), 30 percent were adults between the ages of 18 and 21, and 9 percent were adults over the age of 21 (as of Dec. 31, 2008). In Feb. 2009, MySpace identified 90,000 registered sex offenders with profiles on the site.




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