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Modern means of communication can provide people with numerous opportunities from socializing and entertainment to online learning. Therefore, they have changed the way people perceive information and operate it. Chatting online replaced real-life communication. Web pages replaced real books. Universities were replaced by online courses. There is a question arising: do people receive benefits or lose them?
Social networks have become one of the most noticeable trends of the past decade. Facebook as one of the most popular social networks was chosen to see how it could help in the learning process. Researchers concluded that Facebook could easily replace the usual means of electronic education since it is the largest and most popular social network in the world. The studies of other scientists supported this idea (Schroeder & Greenbowe n.p.). One can suggest that Facebook is capable of providing opportunities for distance learning as well.
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The vast majority of the researchers conclude that Facebook influences the lives of millions of students around the world. First, it is necessary to determine what social network is. Harbaugh (p. 71) provides the following definition:
Social networks are defined as web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.”
The involvement in educational activities and related communication in a social network has been growing every year since 2004 when Facebook was established. Facebook develops every year to provide its users with extended functionality. Also, among other activities, Facebook tries to involve students in communication, groups, and information sharing to become the main medium for educational communication and provide the appropriate tools to support these activities.
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Facebook in Online Participation
As one can notice, the social network is somewhat a working table with lots of boxes and niches to place information and share it with other participants of this network. According to Schroeder and Greenbone, Facebook is an excellent tool for sharing thoughts and practical knowledge in students’ groups for a vast variety of disciplines.
As for the statistics, now more than 110 million Americans use social networks (Harbaugh n.p.). Facebook takes the lead in the race of most popular social network sites (SNS) and now the statistics show that more than 67% of users in the world use Facebook for social networking. Other researches state that among these 67% about 60% discuss education-related topics online and about 50% use Facebook to discuss schoolwork specifically (Schroeder & Greenbowe n.p.).
Conducting the research, Schroeder and Greenbone discovered interesting statistics about Facebook: Kansas State University students in general read about 8 books per year, but at the same time, view more than 2,300 web pages and review about thirteen hundred Facebook profiles in that time. They concluded that Facebook provides students with tools appealing to them and it is possible that introverted students would like to use Facebook rather than show up in a class for a lecture, for example (Schroeder & Greenbowe n.p.; Davies & Graff n.p.).
According to Heiberger and Harper, Facebook is a unique combination of many previously disconnected Internet-based communication tools that included so many of them at once and became so popular because of the harmonic integration of such tools as personal pages, instant and wall posts messaging, picture and music uploading, blogs, and lots of other things. Moreover, Facebook announced the initiative known as “F8.” The company declared that Facebook is a platform with software that excited users, entrepreneurs, and educators (Heiberger & Harper n.p.). The authors state that Facebook holds fourth place in the top companies that have the most traffic and it has the most traffic of any other social network in the world (Heiberger & Harper n.p.; Dewar & Whittington n.p.).
The researchers explored the activities of Facebook and concluded that despite some actions, the social network corrected its course and aimed to facilitate educational communication in particular (Wang, Sheu, & Masatake n.p.). Thus, Facebook removed an integrated course feature that should have mitigated its role in education-based activities. Studies of other scientists outline the role of Facebook in participation as one of the most important in the “digital” world. The statistic, collected in several studies (Heiberger & Harper n.p.; Schroeder & Greenbowe n.p.; Harbaugh n.p.) says that about 75% of college students spend from one to three hours every week communicating on Facebook. The rest 25% spend even more time there.
To sum up, the following can be concluded: Facebook is the largest and the most popular modern social network; it is used by the internet-oriented community to communicate, socialize, and share information; however, it can be used for educational purposes as well; various studies were explored and evaluated to see how useful Facebook can be for the educational purposes. As we can see, Facebook became a rather useful instrument for different educational activities.
It can be concluded as well that Facebook is a good tool for communication and socialization, regardless of several issues such as excessive use of the social network by the younger generation or harassments of a different kind, etc. Anyway, more than 100 million Americans use Facebook for different purposes today so this social network is a customer-recognized product beyond any doubt. Facebook became an event in the Internet community and its popularity points out its overall positive influence on the digital world development.