Perhaps you've heard of it before, but are not quite sure what it means.
Social networking is the grouping of individuals into specific groups, like small rural communities or a neighborhood subdivision, if you will. Although social networking is possible in person, especially in universities, high schools or in the workplace, it is most popular online. This is because unlike most high schools, colleges, or workplaces, the internet is filled with millions of individuals who are looking to meet other internet users, to gather first hand information or experiences about a medical condition, develop friendships, find vacation spots or to start a professional relationship.
When it comes to online social networking, websites are commonly used. These websites are known as social sites. Social networking websites function like an online community of internet users. Depending on the website in question, many of these online community members share a common interest such as hobbies, religion, or politics. Once you are granted access to a social networking website you can begin to socialize. This socialization may include reading the profile pages of other members and possibly even contacting them.
The friends that you can make are just one of the many benefits to social networking online. Another one of those benefits includes diversity because the internet gives individuals from all around the world access to social networking sites. This means that although you are in the United States, you could develop an online friendship with someone in Denmark. Not only will you make new friends, but you just might learn a thing or two about new cultures or new languages and learning is always a good thing.
As mentioned, social networking often involves grouping specific individuals or organizations together. While there are a number of social networking websites that focus on particular interests, there are others that do not. The websites without a main focus are often referred to as "traditional" social networking websites and usually have open memberships. This means that anyone can become a member, no matter what their hobbies, beliefs, or views are. However, once you are inside this online community, you can begin to create your own network of friends and eliminate members that do not share common interests or goals.
As I'm sure you're aware, there are dangers associated with social networking: data theft and viruses are on the rise. The most prevalent danger though often involves online predators or individuals who claim to be someone that they are not. Although danger does exist with networking online, it also exists with networking out in the real world, too. Just like you're advised when meeting strangers at clubs and bars, school, or work -- you are also advised to proceed with caution online. By being aware of your surroundings and who you are talking to, you should be able to safely enjoy social networking online. Just use common sense and listen to your inner voice; it will tell you when something doesn't feel right.
Once you've convinced yourself that you are sufficiently informed, you can begin to search for networking communities to join. This can easily be done by performing a standard internet search. Your search will likely return a number of results, including MySpace, FriendWise, FriendFinder, Yahoo! 360, Facebook, Orkut, and Classmates.