Leading article: Face up to the future

Share
Related Topics

When Mark Zuckerberg launched "The Facebook" in his Harvard dormitory five years ago, he hoped the new website would help his fellow students stay in touch and get to know each other better. But it was not just the elite of this Ivy League bastion whose social lives were destined to be revolutionised by Mr Zuckerberg's invention.

Facebook, the biggest social networking site, has 150 million users. The music-orientated MySpace is not far behind with 130 million. Meanwhile, Twitter, a stripped-down variant of the networking site, is growing rapidly too. In five years, these sites have become an entirely new global communications platform. No wonder they have been courted by advertisers. But does the boom of the sector have any wider social utility? Enhanced human contact is the obvious answer to that. These sites allow people to stay in touch in a hectic and busy world. Friends across the globe are accessible with the click of a mouse. The sites are also helping to re-engage some people with politics. Barack Obama's presidential campaign managed to harness such sites with considerable success.

Yet there are potential hazards. One of the reasons Facebook outperforms its peers is that it offers the security of being part of a private community of friends. But many users had a rude awakening two years ago when it emerged that Facebook was automatically advertising their purchases online. Sometimes, there is such a thing as too much shared information. Likewise, few users grasp just how much information Facebook and other sites have compiled about them for the purposes of selling it on to advertisers. It is possible that some heavy social networkers will come to regret invading their own privacy quite so enthusiastically in years to come.

That said, nigh on every new popular technology, from the motor car to the mobile phone, came with certain hazards. They survived because their utility manifestly outweighed their drawbacks. At the moment, social networking sites seem to be fulfilling a burgeoning demand for people to talk to each other online. For now, the revolution continues.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul
 

Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living