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A social networking service is an online platform that allows people to connect with one another over shared personal or career interests, activities, or backgrounds, as well as one in which family and friends can stay in touch remotely.

Like other Internet networks, and the Internet itself, social networks are distributed across several computer networks.

Most people think of Facebook when they think of a social network and, indeed, Facebook is by far the largest social network at this point in time. However, there are several social networks, varying in size, features, and format. They can be accessed through desktop or laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, or any device with an Internet connection.

Collaborative online projects, such as Wikipedia, are sometimes identified as being social networks. However, definitions of a social networking service generally hold that they are oriented toward the individual and the individual's relationship to the community, while the focus of Wikipedia is on the product. A social network allows individual members to express their individuality and interests, and to meet others with common interests.

Social networks will allow members to create a profile for themselves. Among the information likely to be included in a profile include a photo, a brief biography, location, web address, and sometimes other information, some of which may be optional.

Of course, there will also be the social part. Social networks generally allow members to make connections with other members. For example, Facebook allows members to "friend" other members, while Twitter users "follow" one another, and LinkedIn simply refers to them as "connections." This is the social component of a social network, and these are usually trusted members who will be granted greater access to a member's account, such as being view or comment on postings, send messages, and so on.

Social networks generally provide members with access to a home page, which may be personalized to the member's individual account, or a news feed which allows members to see what their friends are sharing.

Another common feature of a social network is the ability for members to acknowledge posts made by other members, either through comments or by clicking a virtual button that "likes" the post. Some networks, like Facebook, may include other options, as well. On some networks, this is a simple acknowledgment of what was posted. These features encourage members to interact with one another's posts and to carry on discussions. On Facebook, these discussions are status updates with comments, while other social media networks might refer to them as threads and posts, as they would be on an Internet forum.

Social networks might include features designed to help members find other members with common interests. This might include the ability to create groups, as on Facebook. A group might be created in the name of a high school alumni, or a graduating class, or the group might be for those involved in a specific political or social issue. While Facebook allows members to create pages or groups for this purpose, Twitter uses a hashtag system to group together like comments.

Many people are involved in social networks in order to meet people with common interests or as a means of staying in touch with family members, friends, or former co-workers in other parts of the country, while others are involved with social networking as a promotional tool for businesses, organizations, artists, actors, writers, and musicians. Social networks also bring people together around various hobbies or other interests, like movies, television shows, video games, books, or crafts. Other social networks may be intended to bring people together who are of similar ethnicities, religions, age groups, or other factors.

Approximately 70% of Americans are involved in at least one social network. Proponents of social networks may point out that they promote interactions among friends and family members, provide schools and students access to educational support, and facilitate political and social change. Opponents say that the overuse of social networking has led to a reduction in face-to-face interactions, alteration of children's brains and behavior, enhanced exposure to online predators, and the spread of false and potentially dangerous information. As with most everything in life, there are pros and cons to be considered.

The focus of this category is on social networking and social networks. Types of social networks may include business networks, common-interest networks, consumer review networks, school-based networks, shopping networks, social gaming networks, and others.


Business Networks

Consumer Review Networks

Education Oriented Networks

Shopping Networks

Social Community Networks

Social Gaming Networks



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