May 4, 2009

Social Networking in Jacksonville, Florida

“Growing Trends to Business and Social Networking”

Social Stigmas of the Past
When people talked about being in a social network there was this reaction of someone searching for a physical connection, talking about the social scene at one time brought a stigma that someone was looking for sex, potential mates, drugs or other socially challenging designs. When searching through magazines and newspapers, located in the back there are ads for “meeting new and exciting people through networks”, “exploring your other social side” or “daring to get out and open up to hidden pleasures ”, just a few examples of a social side, an underground not spoken openly about. These were the ideas applied in some cases to the social scene.
Pervasiveness of the Internet:
The digital and interactive social networking scene of Jacksonville, Florida has been growing over the past 3 years. The explosion of the diversity and interactiveness of what is being called the Web 2.0 environment has allowed Jacksonville’s diverse communities to connect, work in partnerships and allow for peer collaboration on projects ranging in community development, political activism, ethics, minority affairs, religious activities and of course hobbies and interests. There is no limit to what a person can participate in according to their curiosity and desires. There is still a “dark side to social networking”. The Internet is so pervasive in our lives that we can no longer just think of it as a passing fad or luxury for the well to do, those in academia, military or middle class. In a social and cultural context, in order to be productive in a digital world we must understand this area of communication and collaboration. From research such as, “Collaboration, Literacy, Authorship: Using Social Networking Tools to Engage the Wisdom of Teachers”, it has been stated that, “the pervasiveness of social networking represents the broader culture’s commitment to collaboration, community, and a shared, conscious cocreation of knowledge”.
Defining Social Networks:
The social network “is a social structure made of groups that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange, friendship, sexual relationships, kinship, dislike, conflict or trade” ( There are hundreds of social networks online that are specifically for Jacksonville, Florida. Many groups can be found online at
Meetup Group ( There are discussions in an electronic format of more than just “what is your sign” or” what restaurant to eat at” or “what club is the best to meet people”? These allow for people of like interests and ideologies to express themselves without fear of verbal and physical attack. Arrange to meet offline in group discussion formats, or individually to gauge the status of a developing relationship. It is not uncommon today to hear about couples stating that they met online and “connected” mentally, have similar ideologies about marriage, children and other social concerns. Sharing similar morals, ethics, political, cultural and religious convictions are what brings people together.
Dangers Can Follow:
Even in an electronic format there still remains dangers, the opportunities to meet people may place one or both to unknown dangers and hazards. In the article,
“Dangers of Social Networking, by Tony Bradley (2007), these sites allow the user to post pictures, video, text, and music. A person can learn your likes, dislikes, places you like to travel to and daily routines”. Predators and stalkers follow their potential prey first, looking for opportunities to attack either to do immediate harm, or snatching/kidnapping. The other option is to attack a person by stealing another person’s account. Bill Brenner who writes in,” Not Among Friends: The Dangers of Social Networks”, tells “one aspect that given enough time and information about a person, attackers can hijack a person's social network account to use as a launching pad for additional attacks against other users. These users are a person’s friends and those tied to other friend lists”. Keeping usernames and passwords secrete is very important, if you think your account has been compromised contact the appropriate network parties to help with reestablishing your network identify and security.
Entrepreneurial Spirit:
Establishing a connection on the Internet in the Web 2.0 environment allows for the entrepreneurial spirit is not just on law abiding individuals, but those involved in questionable actions of all ages. In Megan Higgens report in, “Police investigate dark side of social networks”. She found information about underage prostitution rings. “Police are actively looking into a possible prostitution case on the social network site, Twitter. Police say sites like Myspace, Facebook and Craigslist don't make the search for criminals harder, but it is a challenge. Officers must switch up tactics as people try harder not to get caught. But many prostitutes, pimps, conmen and hustlers are turning to the Internet. Because there are so many websites to patrol, detectives are focusing on underage prostitution rings”. Crimes against children take the immediate concerns because children are very trusting and vulnerable to manipulative adults. A parent’s role as a protector is critical in this day and age of digital communication. Parents cannot be closed minded and in denial of their children’s technology understanding and manipulation or them being manipulated.
Parents Must Be Diligent:
Parents must take responsibility, be diligent and firm with their rules for Internet access and who their children communicate with and how. If your instincts tell you something is wrong then more often than not there are problems and needs your immediate attention. Parents should set a time limit on using the Internet and have a firm rule that there are no passwords that are secrete. The adults are the keyholders and gatekeepers in the household. In the article, “Kids vs Creeps: Concerns Mount Over Online Predators” by J. Nicholas Hoover of InformationWeek,
“MySpace and social networking sites like it offer thriving communities where young people engage in countless hours of banal chatter and photo sharing. Not coincidentally, social sites also have become hangouts for child predators, child pornographers, and other lowlifes”. A child may think that they are chatting with another child of similar age, but are not sure who they are communicating with. Adults run the risk also of communicating with who they think are adults, but may be children, “11-year-old who sneaked by MySpace's age controls by claiming to be 18”. This happens more often than people think, even though there are safeguards kids will work until they get past the safeguards.
Since 2003 MySpace has deleted 250,000 underage profiles, this tells them that children are determined to get online even if it means getting caught. Facebook users in order to participate must have a college or high school e-mail address, but some outside email companies have been allowed to join. BlackPlanet, Xanga, and others have their regulations. Parents must be firm and unmoving in their protection of their children from online predators. The African Proverb still applies, and has further reaching implications and inclusiveness to this city in the South. “It takes a village to raise a child. But in our world of online social networking, Web 2.0, instant messaging, decentralized networks, multiple email accounts and increasingly tech-savvy child predators; it's going to take a united effort among government, industry, and families to keep our children safe”.

William Jackson, M.Edu.
Duval County Schools

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