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Networking or Narcissism?

Pro (Gina Clawson)

MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Formspring and Facebook. Most likely you’ve heard of and have used at least one of these social networking Web sites. The question is, why?

On the one hand, you could be using them to attract vain attention from your peers. On the other hand, you could be using them as a networking tool to shine light on those aspirations that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Sure, Facebook, the leading social networking site, is a great way to stalk friends, coworkers, lovers, ex-lovers and your children, but there’s more to it than that. When you sign into a network on Facebook, you enable the site to suggest plausible people for your friend list. As that friend list grows, the amount of people you could possibly be friends with also increases. 

This system of contact and connection enables those who use it to create new lives for themselves—lives they would not have without Facebook. Businesses, long-distance relationships and long-lost siblings—the list goes on and on.

Every day people use social networking to display their extraordinary talents. And this is not just because they like being flattered by total strangers, but because they are promoting causes and talents that are worth recognizing.

In addition, Facebook and all forms of social networking promote and restore personal networks, which create bonds that can change the course of an entire life. These Web sites can be used to enhance conceited behavior from people all over the cyber world but, whether they are aware of it or not, every new person with whom they form a connection increases their chances of recognition. 

Musicians often take advantage of the networking craze on MySpace in particular. They are able to expose their music to a large audience, including those who don’t have accounts.

Recently, a girl I know made a pair of shoes for her favorite musician, Lights. A photo of the shoes was posted on Twitter by Lights. Views to date since Jan. 30? 22,441. Now, the girl owns a business.

Another person I know posts his drawings on Tumblr. He’s an incredible artist and now sells his designs to major clothing companies. 

These Web sites may have been designed for narcissism or networking, or maybe even both. But narcissism may be a product of anything, not just social networking sites.

Most people in our generation are content to feed their egos. But the rest will take advantage of this cyber resource to promote and restore relationships and to strengthen the possibility of achieving future goals.
 

Con (Olivia Denton)

The age of social networking is upon us with Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace in the forefront, as well as Tagged, Hi5, LinkedIn and Twitter, where you can air your frustrations, celebrations and anything else that you may be experiencing. 

While few people can deny the pull of Web sites such as these, the sites have morphed from social networking sites where we can connect with old friends to breeding grounds for true, unadulterated narcissism.

Let’s talk about the status update: What is written may seem profound or important to the writer, but not so much to everyone else. Most of the time, people are merely shouting into the wind, hoping to get a response. There is even a fan page on Facebook dedicated to just that: “I hate it when I write a good status and no one likes it.”

Aside from the thoughts aired in status updates, people often post pictures of themselves in the prettiest poses and coolest stances. While it is nice to see pictures of people that you haven’t seen in a while, not everyone needs to be a supermodel in their own mind.

Facebook and Web sites like it have gone from innocent fun and catching up with old friends to major distractions. How many times have you been doing homework and ended up on Facebook? The allure of Facebook often calls to people as they are trying to do other, more important things.

This problem has become serious enough that the mass media are taking notice: Recently, there has been a slew of news reports, special  segments and episodes of talk shows dedicated to social networking addictions.      

Due to social networking, we no longer connect with one another in the real world. We miss the opportunities because we are so immersed in our cyber façade of friendship.

Before there was Facebook, if someone wanted to get in touch with a friend they had not seen for a while, they would pick up a phone, call them and plan a get-together. With Facebook, one can just send a message or write on their wall, but that is usually the end of it.

Created as a way to stay connected, these Web sites have strayed far from their original purpose. Instead of keeping in touch with one another, we tend to showcase ourselves and often forget to do what’s really important.
 

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