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Online social sites connect friends, co-workerscomment (0)

September 18, 2008

By Jovani Yolanda Fox and Brittany N. Howerton

Have you ever been poked?

Well, not actually physically poked but Facebook poked?

If a poke icon has appeared on your home page, then you’re among the many who interact with friends from school, co-workers and those who share similar interests by using the latest craze in the cyber community — a social networking Web site like Facebook.

Once an account is established at Facebook.com, a user can create a personal profile page and search for and create a database of “friends” who can see that page and communicate with him or her on it.

“Facebook is an online community that allows people from anywhere at anytime to have relationships via Internet,” said Keith Varden, associate student pastor at Gardendale’s First Baptist Church. “It definitely allows you to meet other people from your own area as well as other places.

“I am able to stay in touch with people that I have met that normally I would not just call all the time. It is a great promotion for an event that you may have every week. Mainly it is just easy communication,” he said.

Facebook was started in a Harvard University dormitory room in February 2004. Creators Mark Zuckerberg, who now serves as chief executive officer of Facebook; Dustin Moskovitz; and Chris Hughes have since developed the social network idea into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. It has expanded from just reaching college students at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and Yale to more than 55,000 regional, school and work-related networks and has more than 100 million active users.

Though ranked by comScore, an Internet marketing research company, as the “most-trafficked social media site in the world,” Facebook is not alone in the web of social networking sites.

There’s also MySpace, Bebo, BlackPlanet (for African-Americans), MiGente (for Latinos) and AsianAve (for Asian-Americans), among others.

Mallory Carter, a college senior and member of Underwood Baptist Church, Florence, first got a Facebook account as a high school senior to get to know some other seniors going to her college since she was the only one from her area going there.

“It helped me get plugged in with people and my roommates,” Carter said, adding she now uses Facebook “constantly” to communicate on a daily basis. “I receive messages from things I am involved in at [school] and my professors about class.”

Besides virtually poking or sending messages to a friend, social sites provide other ways to share information.
Facebook provides more than 24,000 applications like a music player users can add to their page so they can dedicate songs to friends and family members.

Users can also upload photographs to share with those both with and without a Facebook account.

That’s the beauty of the site, according to Maegan Waldrep, a member of Central Baptist Church, Decatur.

“Facebook is very user friendly, and it is accessible to anyone,” Waldrep said. “Also it is a safer environment than other online sites because you choose who is allowed to see things on your profile” based on specific friends or friend lists.

According to Facebook’s Web site, it has “led the industry in giving people tools to control the information they share and with whom they choose to share it. User privacy has always been a top priority for the company, which has worked with such organizations as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and WiredSafety,” the world’s largest Internet safety and help group.

And Facebook is TRUSTe certified. TRUSTe is an organization that helps consumers and businesses identify “trustworthy online organizations.”

“It is the next generation of communication,” Varden said of Facebook, which the youth ministry of Gardendale’s First has found to be a much more effective resource for reaching out to its youth than a traditional Web site.
“People pay attention to what is on Facebook.”

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