HUNDREDS of online social networking sites (SNS) are available these days catering to various interests — friendship, dating, business networking, among others.
Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Urkut, hi5, Bebo and Friendster are very popular.
Almost 85 per cent of Malaysia’s online population belongs to one or more of these sites. Of the many SNS, Malaysians have taken a liking to Facebook which has a 77.5 per cent reach of the web population. This phenomenon, states a report on social networking activities by comScore Inc, is common in most Asia Pacific countries such as the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore.
What drives online users to Facebook?
The ability to establish and maintain relationships is the primary drive, says Dr Adrian M. Budiman, a senior lecturer at Universiti Utara Malaysia. It could be real contacts (established in real life), virtual contacts (established online), or old relationships. Adrian, who conducts research in new media and culture, says there are several interesting reasons why Facebook appeals to the online population.
“It is a tool for members to boost their self-esteem. The more friends they have, the more popular they feel. They receive feedback for the content they publish though the site.
“There is a sense of constantly being surrounded by a circle of friends.”
Another reason, he says, is the voyeuristic tendency to view other people’s information in private.
“People want to explore other people’s personal lives without suffering negative social consequences. It also provides a platform to rekindle old relationships.
“The ability to search for old friends and colleagues, former romantic partners, and discover their current status is quite appealing for some members.”
He says the majority of the younger generation (21 years and below) embrace social networks more comfortably than the older generation, and tend to be more liberal in revealing personal information through the site.
While younger people are interested in making new friends, the older generation is more interested in maintaining existing friendships through this medium.
“For younger people, it is their primary method of communication in some cases. In my study, I have discovered that the older generation still has a tendency to value human communication as superior and have greater respect for traditional values and morality,” says Adrian.
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