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Examples of websites devoted to social networking:

    • facebookmyspaceblogger

What is social networking?

Social networking is defined as web-based platforms that provide a method for people to find and communicate with familiar people or people who share the same interests (Boyd, D. & Elison, N.B. 2007). However, this is a rather broad definition. More specifically, social networking allows one to see and connect with other people in their "friend" networks. It is a way to keep connections with family, friends, professionals, students, or people with similar interests through online services such as the ones shown above. A user will typically have a profile that lists their interests/purpose for their page (blog, twitter, etc.) and possibly provide internet links to other pages that interest them. They will then have friends or connections that will be able to contact them through the site.

History of Social Networking:

The first recognized social networking site came in 1997, and it has only grown in popularity. There are widely recognized sites, like facebook (which was launched in 2004 within Harvard and expanded later), and other niche sites that provide a smaller community for people with specific interests. The picture below represents a timeline of the launch of different social networks (Boyd, D. & Elison, N.B. 2007).

How social networking has increased in importance in our society today:

  • On average, students visit social networking sites one or more times a day and spend 32 minutes per visit.
  • A relatively small segment of students reported using social networking sites for their college search (about one-fifth). Those that do are using these sites to look at student pages, blogs, photos, and other information that will help them determine, not surprisingly, the social "fit" of the campuses under consideration.
  • Students are increasingly concerned about the privacy of the information they post about themselves on a social networking site. Three-quarters of students indicated that they are careful about what they put on their profile or page on a social networking site because they are concerned that their parents or other adults might see it.

The Influence Social Networking Has on Society

There are a lot of influences that social networking has on individual behavior and success and society as a whole. One scientistfrom the University of Pennsylvania, discovered that "influentials" had more of a voice within the social networking framework and could work to make changes in the way a group thinks. However, social influence within networking can be unpredictable at the same time. Trends are transient; quick to catch on and quick to be dropped. Social networking acts as a catalyst to spread trends - whether it is a viral video, a new band, or an expression/slang words.
Besides the larger effect on society, social networking influences our interpersonal relationships. You can stay in contact with hundreds of people through a site like facebook or myspace, but your relationships on social networking sites and in person sometimes do not overlap. One is able to compartmentalize their life more and more with services on social networking sites, e.g. creating lists on facebook where certain categories are allowed to see certain things on your profile. You can have subscribers on your blog, you can block people from viewing your profile, etc.
This study examines how adolescent relationships are influenced by social networking, finding that relationships do not tend to be weaker, though many voices in the media try to undermine social networking by saying it kills relationships. The study leans more towards the idea that relationships online and relationships in person do not correlate strongly, pointing to the idea that we may be able to compartmentalize our lives more.

This video explores the impact of social networking on relationships and society as a whole.

Classroom Techniques

Vicki Davis, a "Teacher of the Year" from rural Georgia, received her title from her efforts in creating connections between her students and technology, allowing them to take ownership of their own learning process. Her formula for a successful classroom is providing students with access to the tools that contribute to their learning, without being the gatekeeper of knowledge. This formula gives students an increase in self-determination and a better concept of globalization as it changes the world we live in.

Vicki Davis utilizes a blog, a twitter, and a wiki to make the most collaborative, interactive experience possible for her students.
Teachers helping Teachers: Vicki Davis's blog is used to provide resources and support for other teachers.
Students helping Students: Vicki Davis's wiki provides a platform for students to have a collaborative learning experience.
Teachers sharing with Students: Vicki Davis uses her twitter to provide immediate feedback and responses to students, especially positive reinforcement.
While she addresses different audiences, all of her methods of social networking are available for students, parents, colleagues, and global peers to utilize. In this instance, technology is providing and open venue for discussion and collaboration.
Below are some of the tools she uses (her twitter feed is available at the top of the page):

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Cool Cat Teacher Wiki: Vicki Davis uses a wiki for her classes which helps organize the class information as well as providing a platform for her classes to integrate and collaborate on various projects and assignments. This also makes it possible for parents to keep track of what students are doing in class and allows for students who are absent to access make up work. Group work is enhanced through a wiki, evidenced by this current group project. All of us are too busy to get together and meet, so using the Wiki allows for everyone to contribute at their own pace and schedule.

This video displays Vicki Davis in action as a "guide on the side" for the students, rather than the gatekeeper of knowledge. She has the students look up words that they do not know, rather than just relying on the knowledge of the teacher. She has them research and teach things that interests them, which increases motivation and deepens their understanding of the topic.

How Social Networking Can Provide Individuals with Disabilities a Voice

Until recently, the social model of disability knowledge has not always been evident in our resources and articles on disabilities. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) provides a standard language for health-related issues (WHO, 2002). They explain that the social model of disability sees it a society-created problem, and is not an attribute of the individual. Those following the social model believe that the physical environment is disability, and that our society fails to meet the needs of our people (WHO, 2002). They feel that media can reinforce perceptions of disabiltiies, that are often incorrect or not person-first. Through the use of social networking, the individuals now have a greater arena to educate people through their own perspectives and experiences, and not through the assumptions or perceptions of others.

In her article, "Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome in General Education", Joan S. Safran discusses how to use available resources or make needed accommodations, and how using the internet can be beneficial for students with Asperger's Syndrome. Safran comments on how effort and anxiety in interpersonal communication, often a challenge for someone with Asperger's, is greatly reduced [with use of the internet]. She used a quote to defend this belief from Judy Singer, a woman who herself is on the Autism spectrum, stating that the web offers "the communication they desire...[without] the overwhelming sensory overload of human presence" (Singer, J. 1999). Judy Singer is generally credited by the online autism community (and believes she is) as being the first person to discuss the concept of "Neurodiversity", which is describedas, "the idea that variation in brain development and function should be appreciated and accepted as any other form of physical variation" (Jaarsma, P. and Wellin, S., 2011). Neurodiversity advocates such as Singer argue that autism should not be seen as a disability but rather as a natural variation, or a "new addition to the familiar political categories of class/gender/race" (Jaarsma, P. and Wellin, S., 2011)
. Singer was first published by American writer Harvey Blume. Blume writes an excellent article called "Autism & the Internet" or "Its the Wiring, Stupid" on Media in Transition, which was a project for Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is now an archive of old articles. He talks about how the internet has given a voice to people with ASD, who had previously been spoken for.

Singer is again quoted in Andrew Solomon's article "The Autism Rights Movement" for The New York Magazine, saying, "[the web] is a prosthetic device for people who can’t socialize without it”. Solomon's article focuses on a recent activism movement headed by Ari Ne'eman against the NYU Child Study Center' s controversial advertisements created in the form of ransom notes saying things like, "We have your son. We are destroying his ability for social interaction and driving him into a life of complete isolation. It’s up to you now. Signed, Autism" (Solomon, A., 2008). Ne'eman and fellow activists protested the advertisements and used the concept of neurodiversity to explain that it was society that needed to change or be cured, and not autism. Solomon noted that, "Less than three weeks after they appeared, the ads were pulled. It was a signal of triumph for the neurodiversity movement, the self-chosen name for the autism-rights brigade". This neurodiversity movement's accomplishment may have not had as much clout if it were not for the use of the internet and the way social networking sites can reach millions of people all over the world. Solomon claims based on resources that the internet has become "more hospitable to an autism-rights climate", and this in turn allows these individuals to connect with others at their own pace and choice (Solomon, A., 2008).

Here are some other examples of social networking for individuals with ASD:
Aspies for Freedom is a popular blog for individuals with ASD.
Wrong Planet is an online resource and community for ASD.

Social networking can also provide a means of communication for those with physical disabilities. Physical disabilities often limit individuals in their physical environments, but through the use of the internet these individuals can allow their minds to explore without restrictions. Michael P. Murphy is a forty-four year old man who has spinal muscular atrophy. He has spent most of his post-secondary life writing science fiction novels, but realized he would never be able to show his previous classmates what had become of his life as his disability makes it impossible for him to travel to school reunions. When a friend encouraged him to join Facebook, he was reluctant. He had stereotyped it as a site for "middle-aged perverts cruising the internet and teenage girls giggling about effeminate vampires". Despite this, he thought it might be a way to plug for his writing and signed up. What he found was a whole cyber-world awaiting him. He connected with old friends, and described this as his way to "hit the neighborhood bar". It was refreshing to see that everyone had grown up and began aging like him, and he got a glimpse of what everyone was up to in their lives (Murphy, M., 2011). He shed a positive light on his disability after noticing:

"Many of my old friends have things in their lives that I know are forever beyond my reach — steady work, families, travel, etc. At the same time though, it sounds as if the only activities they ever engage in are work, doctor appointments, church and the occasional ballgame. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of these things — but they’re just not my cup of tea. At this point in time, I’m still free to work at my own pace, stay up as late as I want, watch whatever movies I want without having to worry about the kiddies, and there’s no wife nagging me to quit wasting money on comic books, DVDs, action figures and other essentials. In short, my Facebook friends have taught me that maybe, just maybe, there might be some advantages to being disabled, after all!"
The rest of Michael P. Murphy's article can be found at this site: Quest: Social Networking and Disability .

invisible_disabilitiesMy Invisible Disabilities Community is "a social network for people touched by illness, pain, and injury". Just like many of the other common and popular social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, My Invisible Disabilities Community allows members to connect with friends, old and new, blog, post photos, create events, join groups, read recent posts/articles, and much more. What is even more interesting is that links to the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) are not only found on the website, but they also advertise their links on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

The New York Times has found that online social networks can also serve as a "lifeline" for those who are chronically ill. One user of a social networking site for individuals with disabilities commented, "There's no worry of being judged or criticized, and that is something that I know a lot of us don't get in our daily lives". These sites allow people to connect with others and serve as an outlet for those who are experiencing the same challenges, and also provide an easy and accessible way for all to look up more information or resources on their disability. While social networks appear to be revolutionary for individuals with disabilities, professionals like Paul Albert, a digital services librarian at Weill Cornell Medical Library in New York, have concerns with how social networks meet the needs of individuals with chronic diseases. He states, “If you hang out on a message board where people are very negative, you can easily adopt a negative attitude about your disease” (Miller, C., 2010). Other professionals are also worried about the amount of false information on the web. A study by the Pew Research Center found however that just two percent of adults living with chronic diseases were harmed by medical advice they found on the internet (Miller, C., 2010).

This New York Times article can be read here: Online Social Networks Bridge Gaps for Chronically Ill . This article references a user of My Invisible Disabilities Community!

Educating All: Other Ways Social Networking Educates All on Disability Awareness

  • This "Being Green" Youtube, Inc. video is an example of one way to use the internet and social networking to connect to all individuals.
  • Through the use of his hospital's blogging website, Brian Skotko, MD, MPP was able to reach many different media outlets and advocate for individuals with Down Syndrome, more specifically for his sister Kristin. Children's Hospital Blog: Mock My Pants, Not My Sister

  • "We're More Alike Than Different" is a campaign from the National Down Syndrome Congress that hopes to educate others on the lives of individuals with Down Syndrome.

  • Disaboom, Inc. is a popular website created by Dr J. Glen House, a physican specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, who is also a quadriplegic. This website can be used by individuals to access resources and information, locate jobs for individuals with disabilities, create or seek relationships, and provides a wealth of articles written by people who are living with these disabilities first hand.

Cyber-Bullying against Individuals with Disabilities

Cyberbullying is the most recent form of bullying taking place in today's society. It describes the harassment of people via cellular phone, internet or other types of technology in order to harass, intimidate, or damage the reputation of the victim. (

There are two types of cyberbullying - direct attacks (messages sent to children directly) and cyberbullying by proxy (using other to help cyberbully the victim, either with or without the accomplice's knowledge). Because cyberbullying by proxy often gets adults involved in the harassment, it can be much more dangerous to the victims.
With traditional bullying, most children are motivated by anger, revenge or frustration and may also cyberbully for their own entertainment and out of boredom. Although, some children do it by accident or do not think before acting, some kids may bully for the sake of tormenting others. Because many motives differ from child to child, the solutions and responses differ as well and since there is no "one size fits all" model of resolving cyberbullying, the trend continues. (

Google - Children with special needs may use the Internet as much as, if not more than, other students. Four out of 10 adults with disabilities conduct business and personal activities online, spending an average of 20 hours per week on the Internet which exceeds the average general use (U.S. Census Bureau 2007). While the technology provides a more fluid means of interacting with peers and opens up a new potential pool of social contacts researchers also know that it provides a completely unfiltered method for bullies to attack and harass students with special needs outside of the classroom. More research is necessary to gauge what kind of a threat cyberbullying is to children with special needs

external image pdf.png walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes.pdfThis pdf is about cyber bulling and is an INCREDIBLE source for people who are looking to learn more about bullying against people with disabilities.

Cyber bullying is when an individual uses the internet, cell phones, or other electronic devices to send or post messages, videos, or photos intended to hurt or embarrass other people. ( ) Children with disabilities are significantly more likely than their peers to be the victims of bullying behaviors differing depending on their disabilities. Children with visible conditions, like cerebral palsy and spina bifida, are more likely to be called names aggressively excluded from social activities. Children with learning disabilities report higher rates of teasing and physically abusive victimization. Obesity has also been linked to higher rates of bullying as well. ( For some young people, if their disability is visible/identifiable while they're online (or they make their disability known to others) then that person becomes more vulnerable to cyber bullying from other users. Also, if the person's disability affects their use of the technology, they become more vulnerable to other users. (BeatBullying) - one of the leading experts/resources regarding bullying/children with special needs. Provides coloring books, contests and videos for parents to share with their children. Through a series of cartoons children can learn what it means to be bullied. The child guesses different "clues" that in the end adds up to a score and provides advice if the child is a victim. The games/contests are interactive with parent participation to encourage communication and dialogue between the parent and the child. - There is a small but growing amount of research literature on bullying among children with disabilities and special needs. This research indicates that these children may be at particular risk of being bullied by their peers. Bullying leaves lasting scars that impede learning and development...The resources gathered for this site are intended to help those with SJS/TEN, who may be experiencing or have experienced bullying, access support and advice in a comprehensive manner. Our thanks to Sarah Boxer, student advocate, who gathered these resources and designed this site, and whose sister Liz recovered from SJS several years ago. - "Children with learning disabilities are missing out on opportunities to learn and make friends, socialise and play, she said. "If action is not taken to tackle bullying, children with a learning disability will face bullying and isolation all their lives."


Student Poll

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Bryant, J. A., Sanders-Jackson, A., & Smallwood, A. M. K. (2006). IMing, text messaging, and adolescent social networks. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), article 10.

Cristakis, Nicholas. (2010). The Hidden Influence of Social Networking. Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading. Retrieved November 23, 2011.

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Davis, Vicki. (2011). Cool Cat Teacher Wiki.

Flam, Faye. (2009). Scientists examine how social networks influence behavior. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved on November 26, 2011.

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Safran, Joan S. (2002). “Supporting Students with Asperger’s Syndome in General Education”. TEACHING Exceptional Children. 34 (5), 60-66.

Singer, J. (1999). “Why can’t you be normal for once in your life?” From a problem with no name to the emergence of a new category of difference. In M. Corker & S. French (Eds.), Disability discourse(pp. 28-37). Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Solomon, Andrew. (2008). “The Autism Rights Movement”. New York Magazine. Retrieved from:

World Health Organization (WHO) Geneva. (2002). Towards a Common Language for Functioning, Disability, and Health.

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