Social Networking for Adult Students

by Jan Hill

Social networking sites function as Internet, or online communities of users who share common interests or pursuits (such as hobbies, religion, or politics for example). Once you join or are granted access to these sites, you begin “socializing,” which includes reading the profile pages of other members and contacting them.

Overview of Social Sites

Sites such as FacebookMySpace, and Friendster allow you to stay in touch with family and friends. For those who love animals, the social site BestFriends is devoted to educating people on the basics of proper pet care. LinkedIn is a business networking site, and Facebook is fast becoming recognized in that realm as well.  Plaxo and Jobster are social networking sites that can help you find employment. MyWorkster is a sister site to that allows college students to register and network with potential employers. Twitter is a social website that helps friends, family, and co-workers communicate quickly and easily through short updates called “tweets,” of 140 characters or less.

Importance of Social Networking

So why should you join a social site? Well, there are many benefits, besides just the friends you’ll make. You’ll meet individuals of great diversity, because social sites link people from all over the world, and you might learn something about a different culture or language. Social sites allow users to communicate and make connections, both personal and professional.

Before social networking sites became popular, people met on the Internet mainly through chat rooms, instant messaging services, and email. While many people still network this way, it is not always safe, and because profiles are not required, users cannot learn much about the person they are conversing with, including whether or not they are really who they say they are. Most social websites allow you to create your own profile, and some even give you your own web page. These profiles allow you to share information about yourself, and make it easy to connect with others who share your interests.

Creating a Support Network via Social Networking

When it comes to types of social networking sites, the sky’s the limit! There are literally hundreds of sites out there, so finding one that fits your particular focus, be it for career exploration, going back to school, job hunting, or political viewpoints, should not be too difficult.

If you are new to social sites, joining a specialty networking site may be your best bet. They are a great way to get your feet wet because you will automatically be paired with Internet users who have similar interests, beliefs, and views to yours.

Most social networking sites are free to use, or at least free to try, so just get out there and see what’s available. If you don’t feel comfortable on a particular site, cancel your membership and try another until you find a good fit.

Making the Most of Social Networking Sites

Once you pick a site to join, be sure to create a profile. Take the time to become familiar with the levels of permission and security settings on the site, and be sure you don’t reveal personal information such as your birth date (month, date, and year), Social Security number, and address.

Once you’ve become accustomed to your chosen site, join some groups comprised of members who share your interests, professional goals, or hobbies. Get involved in group discussions that interest you, and give insightful comments, not just “I agree” or “Great post.” Try to think of something new and positive to add to the discussion, or start one of your own.

If you have your own blog, consider feeding your posts into your profile on social sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. By doing so, you can easily maximize your exposure and the time you take to write your posts by broadening your audience. This is easily done on most social networking sites, and the sites will walk you through the steps, or you can start a discussion about how to do it!

Career and Educational Uses for Social Networking

Today’s job recruiters frequently turn to social networking sites like LinkedIn to fill job vacancies. Not only is it important to have a presence on sites like LinkedIn, it is even more important to build a professional online profile. Social sites like Facebook can also be helpful in linking you to your next boss or someone who is looking for a business partner.

Some social networking sites were designed specifically to help people find jobs. These sites allow you to sign up, create your profile, post your resume, and create links to your other social networking sites. Simply Hired is a “job aggregator” site, meaning that it searches job boards and company pages to provide you with a list of possible jobs that meet your skills and location. Another business site, Jobster, will allow you to connect directly with employers, not just with recruiters or job boards.

My Workster is a unique social networking site that is designed exclusively for college students looking for jobs. This is an excellent site that allows college students to “get their foot in the door” with potential employers like Microsoft, General Electric, United Parcel Service, the Mayo Clinic, American Express, IBM, and Nike.

In a 2008 study, the University of Minnesota found that there are many educational benefits for those belonging to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. When asked what they learned from using these sites, those surveyed listed technology skills as their top lesson, followed by creativity, being more open to new and diverse ideas, and also communication skills.

Respondents also said that by using social networking sites, they developed a positive attitude toward technology, learned how to edit and customize content, shared creative, original work such as poetry and film, and learned to practice the safe and responsible use of information and technology.

Jan Hill is a freelance writer and a certified paralegal for a private university. Her writing has appeared in various newspapers, magazines, books, Web sites, and on her personal writing blog.

bluearrow-3063308For a list of over 100 social networking sites, see Wikipedia’s listing.