I’ve reflected on pros and cons of various popular virtual communities. However, I have not touched on the most important difference between the digital and real worlds: Social networks will never be able to replace the important of human interaction in reality. The social gestures of poking someone on facebook or liking a youtuber’s uploaded video can never accurately demonstrate the compassion and geniality of a shared smile, comforting hug or encouraging high-five.
Another extremely popular virtual community is YouTube, a website in which anybody and everybody can upload anything in video format. These types of videos include everything from home videos to movie trailers to television show clips. One fifth of all videos are music videos. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” is the most popular viewed video on Youtube:
Every minute, youtube users (“Youtubers”) upload a combined total of 24 hours of video footage! 70% of Youtubers are American and 50% of Youtubers are under age 20. Youtube is a subsidiary of Google and their mission statement is: “Google and YouTube share the vision of enabling anyone to find, upload, watch and share original videos worldwide, and the dedication to innovate with video to offer compelling services for our users and for content owners.”
This immensely popular website is used by everyone from record label producers (exploiting their published music videos) to middle schoolers (presenting their health class video project). Youtube has created an extremely interconnected social network between various countries and very diverse people. If you have an awesome video, it can be viewed hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of times by a worldwide audience.
Youtube can be used as an educational and informative tool. If one wants to learn how to fold a shirt, all they have to do is type in the search box “how to fold a shirt” and they will be directed to a list of videos related to the search entry. Click one of the video images or titled link next to the video, and watch and learn. This allows for people to be instructed by watching and listening rather than reading. This method is gaining confidence and popularity amongst many, who rely on Youtube to find tutorials, news show clips, and interviews right at the tips of their fingers. This rapid increase of ready, available information allows for people to educate themselves with whatever they choose.
The simple interface of the website also makes it easier for users to upload videos, and attract new members with its’ understandable design:
Youtube is said to be the embodiment of democracy and freedom and I find this to be true. Anybody who wants to can upload any video (some restrictions apply of course, such as nudity and torture restricted to 18+ users)and have the possibility of becoming Youtube famous. The freedom of expression and speech are exampled through all of the video responses of varying opinions and ideas reflected toward other videos.
Each user has their own homepage which can be viewed by anyone, and the videos they upload reflect their virtual persona, as well as their real persona. Users can comment and “like” others users’ videos, virtually imprinting their opinion for eternity.
Overall, Youtube is one of the most influential and important virtual communities in this country, if not in the world. The diversity and uniqueness of the world is exampled through all of the fascinating, informative, ingenious, or just downright funny videos posted by Youtube users.
“Facts About YouTube.” Top 5 Online Schools : Online Degrees, Online Colleges and Universities Free Online Schools Online K-12 Schooling Online School Reports, Reviews, & Rankings. 2009. Web. 20 Dec. 2010. <http://www.onlineschools.org/blog/youtube/>.
Registering, By. “YouTube – YouTube Fact Sheet.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Web. 20 Dec. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/t/fact_sheet>.
Chatroulette is a unique example of a virtual community. Essentially, it is a page on the internet in which two different web cameras are randomly assigned, and the parties on either end can see and instant message each other.
So basically the way this virtual community works is: 1. Go to the website. 2. Automatically, you are set up in a chatroom with some random stranger (possibly Jessica Alba). 3. You decide whether or not you want to continue to talk. If you don’t, simply “next” the person by pressing a button. Then you will be set up with another random stranger.
One thing about Chatroulette that differs from other virtual communities is that you don’t need to create an account or give out any information at all. The communication is much more personal though because you are not hiding behind your computer: the other party recieves a live video of you as you type (and vice versa).
A social activity that has resulted from this peculiar and entertaining website is using it when you’re around a bunch of friends. It has become a trend for groups of people to get behind one web cam and socialize with Chatroulette users.
Here are some statistics indicating the sex of chatroulette users encountered:
The majority of male users to women users is overwhelming and a disturbing 5% of users are voyeurs/exhibitionists who show off their genitals to unsuspecting people.
“The Sociology of Chatroulette.” Antonio A. Casilli :: BodySpaceSociety. Web. 14 Dec. 2010.
E-mail, By. “Complete Guide to Chatroulette.” Aeromental. Web. 14 Dec. 2010.
Facebook is unarguably the most popular virtual community on the internet. Founded in 2004, this social network has increased its amount of users from a few people to over 500 million. Facebook is a social tool used to connect with family, friends, and complete strangers. It allows for users to share media with virtual “friends”, or people who you’ve added to allow access to both your and their information, such as uploaded photos, web links, and videos. Each facebook user has access to their own inbox, which serves as e-mail and also facebook “chat” which serves as an instant messenger.
One advantage of facebook is that it allows for people to keep up-to-date on their family or friends’ lives and communicate with them easily. The interface layout of Facebook is simple for anybody to use. It allows the user to decide what they want to share with others and whom they want to share it with. The user has a lot of options for privacy settings, allowing for more personal security. And like other virtual communities, users can find others with similar taste and interests, so the interactive sociality is entertaining.
A con that come to mind when considering Facebook include obsessive or addictive relationship with facebook, socializing through this rather than face-to-face interactions in real-life. Another disadvantage of this social networking website is the potential for negative interactions including cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking. It’s incredibly easy for a stranger to access your personal information on your profile if your privacy settings are weak or if you accept people you haven’t met in real life. Some users misuse this social tool and cause negative interaction with people through thoughtless mistakes. This video epitomizes this idea:
I’ve had facebook for almost four years now and from my beginning of using it to now, my interest and fascination has almost drained completely. I consider facebook to be completely monotonous and unappealing, yet I find myself subconsciously typing in facebook into the address bar whenever I open up my browser. I’ve gotten to the point that after about two minutes of exploring the news feed and a few friends’ profiles, my interest is diminished and I want to preoccupy my time with something productive.
I have over 600 “friends” on this social network, and probably only about 10 or 15 of them are people that I want to maintain real friendships with. Sometimes it is very helpful in getting in contact with classmates for homework assignments, projects, etc. but other than that the messaging system/thread inbox is the only other accommodating function. It is an extremely obliging tool for those who procrastinate. I know that I’ve wasted hours just surfing through different profiles, IM-ing on the chat with others, uploading photographs to share with friends, and “Like”-ing various youtube videos/status updates.
Although facebook creates social connections, the virtually-marked relationships made between you and another aren’t anyways near as meaningful and substantive as interaction in the physical world. Facebook is acceptable to use in healthy doses, but it is easy for anybody to abuse.
Today I joined a very popular virtual community, Reddit, in order to explore the features and aspects of having a digital identity, completely separate from my identity in the real world. Reddit is a free source in which the virtual members provide various fascinating, surprising, revolutionary links for others to comment on and determine whether or not they like.
In this community, all members are virtually the same, identities separated by different usernames and their history of what links they have voted and commented on. This eliminates any sort of judgement by allowing members to be identified with what they choose to react to. I see this as a benefit, because the member’s actions are the only things considered rather than their background or physicality. The member has total control of how they present themselves, and in effect allowing others to see who they are without any bias.
I guess the only downside of expressing one’s opinion is the emotion or tone behind the words said being misinterpreted or misunderstood. Personal face-to-face communication usually helps to prevents this from happening
This is the research question that I will be investigating for my next five blog posts. For those who are unaware with the term “virtual community“: Basically, it is a website on the internet that anybody in the world (who has an internet connection) can access and is a place where these people can communicate with each other. Some of the reasons that many join virtual communities include the desire to socialize and compare beliefs and ideas with others, working with others on a specific project, and providing information for others to access easily. Since these communities are virtual, there is no face-to-face or vocal communication between a community’s members. Instead, they connect with each other through virtual data including text, images, and videos.
“Virtual Communities: What and Why?” Full Circle Associates: Nancy White. Web. 01 Dec. 2010. <http://www.fullcirc.com/community/communitywhatwhy.htm>.