52% of adults under 30 say they have a close friend they met online; 47% of adults over the age of 40 report the same. It’s the same way we’ve always made friends, but with greater scope; rather than overhearing someone at a party mention how much they love dogs or a particular TV show, we see them post about it on their blog – from anywhere in the world. Many find that their online connections become more genuine and deep than their “IRL” (in real life) connections- their online friends get the in-jokes, they want to talk about the same things.
It would be easy to think of social networking as a new phenomenon (given that MySpace and Facebook both debuted in 2004), but software allowing people to connect, chat and share online has been around since the advent of the internet; message boards date back to around 1994, and online chat can be traced back as far as 1980. When Facebook made its debut it was just another niche interest group, dedicated to bringing together students from elite colleges; and it’s starting to revert back to that kind of communication with its Groups feature, where people are able to escape the noise of their newsfeed and talk to people, friends or strangers, about the things they really care about.
Starting your own social network is easy, and it can be just as valuable for individuals as it is for businesses (even before you consider just how popular these networks can become, and opportunities for advertising revenue). It brings you together with people who care about the same things you do, who you can share ideas and thoughts with; it creates a space where people can foster important connections and form friendships.