In modern times social networking sites have become a regular feature of our every day lives, and I believe for this reason it is important to be fully aware of the social networking sites - advantages and disadvantages.

There are literally thousands of them, from Advogato to Zoosk, but exactly what does define a social networking site?

Definition: A social networking site, is an online platform that allows social interaction amongst individuals who share common interests, for example they are a fan of Madeon's music and they could discuss certain aspects of the artist etc.

Below are eight advantages for using social networking sites, and then another eight disadvantages for using social networking sites below that.

The Advantages of Social Networking Sites

1) Low Cost Communication (essentially free)

If you go on to social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo or MySpace, you can send messages back and forth to multiple friends at once, absolutely free from charge (apart from the cost of actually running the internet, and computer etc.). 

2) Making New Friends 

You are given the opportunity to make new friends via such sites, whether that be 'suggested friends' (a friend of a friend) or online relations that can be formed due to a shared interest or hobby.

3) The Ability to Upload Videos and Images

Most Social Networking platforms have the capability to allow you to upload particular media. So a wide selected audience can view your pictures and videos. Saving you having to send images and videoes directly to each person you want to see them, instead they can simply pop over to your account profile and view them.

4) The Ease of Setting Up Events

Facebook allows you to create events, which is an online organised meeting to do something (in the real world) with a set time and place, so via Facebook you can offer invites to the event and make announcements etc. Again saving time, as you aren't having to go around communicating to everyone individually.

5) Sharing Knowledge

Social networking sites give you the capability to share information with ease, and by doing this Julia Porter states that people are able to "increase both their learning and their flexibility in ways that would not be possible within a self-contained hierarchical organisation" - this particular statement was is in regards to passing information around scientists, however it can also be applied to other organisations also.

6) Finding Old Friends 

Social networking is a great tool to reunite with friends, with social networking sites such as "Friends Reunited". Where a simple sign-up and filling in a few details - you have just allowed yourself to be found by old friends.

7) Tools for Teaching 

As students are using a wide range of social networking sites already, teachers have taken advantage of this. Teachers have started to bring up online academic discussions (through threads and chat rooms) - for their students to participate in. Social network platforms also provide teachers with the ability to help students out with homework and communicate with parents. 

8) Pursuing Jobs and Work Experience 

Twitter in particular is a great tool for this, tweeting that you are interested in a particular job or internship could be a great step to actually securing one. As your followers may not actually have a opportunity for you, but they may know people who do - so you don't only tap into your network, you tap into the network of the people who are following you (i.e the friend of the friend's network).

The Disadvantages of Social Networking Sites

1) The Invasion Of Privacy 

It has been addressed on many occasions in the news and in the press, that we are giving away too much 'personal information' about ourselves, and that this is leading us to becoming vulnerable to the likes of identity theft etc.

2) Reducing Worker Productivity 

There has been evidence to suggest social networking sites are harming businesses. Their employees are wasting time right throughout the day by participating in social networking sites rather than actually working. It has been stated that Facebook alone is accountable to wasting more than £130 million a day in the UK.

3) How Much Do Social Networking Sites Know?

Perhaps social networking sites have learnt a bit too much information for comfort, Facebook knows via their program 'Facebook Beacon'  that analyses our natural online behaviour - how long we are on the internet for, how often we visit certain websites etc. They monitor your activity even when you aren't actually even logged in to Facebook!

4) Potential to Cause Harm

There has been many reported cases, where fake accounts have been made, that lead to horrific tragedies. Such as in October 2006 a fake MySpace account was created that was given the name of Josh Evans that was closely linked to the suicide of Megan Meier.

5) The Case of Cyber-Bullying 

As many young teenagers are using social networking sites as a form of communication, this just provides bullies with another opportunity to traumatise their victims. With few limitations from social networking sites to what people can actually post, bullies have the ability to publish offensive images and comments.

6) "Trolling"

These are rather common occurrences where individuals will post within a social network, to either annoy or spark a reaction through a post or general comment - these people are often referred to as Trolls. Not really bullying, more being a nuisance on the social network.

7) Causing a Lack of Personal Communication

There is a concern over people becoming so reliant upon the convenience of social networking sites that they aren't actually using 'real-life' verbal skills and they losing out on social intimacy with other people.

8) Psychological Issues 

 Studies have been conducted where the results suggest that people are becoming addicted to social networking sites - e.g. a case of fourteen year old spending over eight hours day on Facebook etc. . There is also evidence to suggest that these sites can cause a person to feel 'lonely'.

There are many other benefits and concerns surrounding Social Networking sites, however the above are aimed at being related to you (as an individual), where as to a business they will be faced with different advantages and disadvantages of using such sites. If you have come up with anymore Social Networking advantages and disadvantages, please be sure to add them to the comments below.