Organizing Online Social Networks

For my final paper I’d like to take a stab at answering the question, what type of organization is an online social network? There are a number of past and current examples of OSNs such as Facebook, Myspace, MyhometownLink, and many others—but how exactly are they classified as an organization? What sort of characteristics do they have? Why are they useful or what is their purpose? How are they potentially dangerous or detrimental to others? What is their effect on other more traditional organizations such as businesses or government? Are they a natural, rational, or open system?

Woaoaoaoaoa sooooo many

Woaoaoaoaoa sooooo many

My interest in the topic of OSNs stems from two sources: Facebook and my involvement in creating one. Facebook has redefined a generation and vastly altered how we as college students interact with one another. Communication norms and expectations have shifted significantly since we all joined Facebook. Why call a person or send a card when you can simply post a message on their wall wishing them a happy birthday? Why send invitations in the mail when you can create an event and invite ten times as many people as you traditionally could? The student body as an organization is different because of Facebook—why? Take a look at this article in the NY Times that goes more in depth on the current status of Facebook.

Secondly, a friend and I are working on developing an OSN that acts a communication platform between parents in need of babysitters, lawn workers, tutors, etc. and students willing to perform those tasks. (Feel free to check it out at!) I would like to brush off the dust of history and find out how and why and where OSNs got started. Why are they so big now as opposed to ten years ago? They are certainly not a new idea…

So I’ve asked a lot of questions. I’d love to hear any answers, comments, suggestions, ideas from the peanut gallery!

8 Responses

  1. I don’t think lewisburg link *link* is working….

  2. I will have more to say about this fascinating topic.

    You raise an interesting issue. There are tow organizations. Whoever programs and runs the platform. Then there are all the users. Are they an organization unto themselves? Or,more like a proto-organizations? A thick soup of connections and information flows out of which more or less formal and long-living organizations might form?

  3. Also, do you have a rational system (Faceook management) running an open system (the users).

  4. I would like to see this, especially since you are involved with the creation of myhometownlink, right? Because you will have first-hand knowledge of what is behind the on-line content that the end user is served.

    Very interesting topic, look forward to seeing this.

  5. Online Social Networks certainly have become much more popular then 10 years ago. If I hear one more time that somebody met their husband/wife via an online dating site– it’s so surprising. One of the reasons I think they have become so popular is that there is more trust in the system– it no longer a scary virtual world out there but it seems to be a much friendlier and safer one.

  6. Dave, it’s interesting that you go so far as to say, “Facebook has redefined a generation and vastly altered how we as college students interact with one another”. I absolutely agree! All that you have to do to understand the importance and prevalence of Facebook is think about all of the different things we use it for. In the last week I have used Facebook to: interact with friends, upload pictures, instant messaging, event advertising, and of course as a procrastination tool. I think you certainly have an interesting paper topic and one that affects all of our lives every single day.

  7. I do believe it has chnaged the way we communicate, not only with friends but professionally. I have had many recruits asking me via email if I had facebook; also, the NCAA had to come up with a new rules from texting to OSN, to regulate communication.

  8. I completely agree with you Dave that social networking sites such as these have shaped, and will continue to shape, our generation. Recently, I’ve found myself wondering if I’ll ever reach a point in my life when I’ll stop using Facebook…and as much as I sometimes think it will be taboo for me to have it as a parent, I know it will be very hard to part with because it is such a great and easy communication tool!

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