Social networking has been in the news once again this week, with the news that Facebook has passed the 500 million users mark. As i mentioned in a blog post the other day, the reporting of this story is not unusual these days.
One thought i did have about this story was, that i wondered what some people will make of the fact that a jeans and t.shirt wearing 26 year old, runs a website, that if it were a country, would be the worlds third largest? I'm sure that's pretty scary stuff in some quarters.
In the light of the Facebook story, the BBC reported on a recent survey, which compared all of the main social networking sites. It was called "The ups and downs of social networks". All of the usual suspects and major players were there. Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, Twitter, Bebo, etc etc. Some faring well and others not so.
But, in my opinion at least, there was one major website missing from that survey. YouTube.
For most people, YouTube is perceived as a video sharing website and this it undoubtably is. It has become the number one site for online video viewing. The place where the vast majority of Internet users will go to first if they want to find a silly viral video, a clip from their favourite tv show, or the latest music video by their favourite artist.
But, for many other people, YouTube is also a social networking site. So, why isn't it ever viewed as such?
Maybe, it is because of YouTube's perceived association with the sillier and less serious side of the Internet?
Whatever the reason, for me at least, YouTube was my first foray into what i would now call social networking.
It was on YouTube that i first started to interact with fellow Internet users, from across the world, in a meaningful way.
It was on YouTube that i first "met" other like minded Internet users, of all ages & backgrounds.
It was because of YouTube that i first met, in real life, fellow Internet users and felt confident in doing so.
It was because of YouTube that i have travelled to the USA on two occasions, exclusively to meet and travel with fellow video makers and have a great holiday into the bargain.
It was on YouTube that i first discovered a shared sense of there being an online Community.
Now, that's what i call social networking.
Maybe, i feel this way because YouTube was the first site of this kind that i stumbled onto?
Although i knew of and visited sites like MySpace when i first started to explore the social side of the Internet. It was YouTube that drew me in and made me dig beneath the surface and explore that little bit more than before.
For me, it was the way that i could see, through their videos, the people that i was interacting with. I could see their faces and look into their eyes. Something that you just don't get on many other, so called, social networking sites. Surely, it is far safer if you can actually see who you are intereacting with? Yes, i'm sure that this can be falsified. But, not nearly as easily as on a mainly text based site.
Since i created my YouTube channel in August 2006 and started making videos there, i have made some great friends. Some i have met in real life and this have often led to real and genuine friendships. Some i have yet to meet. Some, i may well never meet. But, i would still consider them to be friends.
I do wonder that if i was now a newcomer to the world of social networking, whether i might feel differently? After all, sites such as Facebook and Twitter, both of which i now use, were not really on the Internet radar back in 2006.
That question, of course, can never be answered.
All i do know, is that i am more than happy that my first experiences in the world of social networking were through YouTube.
I consider YouTube to be as real a social networking site as any of the others mentioned in this blog post.
I just wish that the rest of the world would view it in the same way. Maybe some day they will?