USC Annenberg's Center for the Digital Future Director Jeffery Cole brought up a hypothetical scenario in our first APOC class: What would happen when your parents started to comment on your Facebook page? Most people probably will agree with the answer Jeffery came up with: just image what young people would feel if they ran into their parents in a night club! Yes, as social network sites, which started with young adult demographics, begin to penetrate a broader audience, the "night club" door is opening more and more to parents now! What would you do?
There is no doubt that many people feel, just as they would for their real-world social circles, that they do not want a mix or clash of their online social circles either. That is why so many interest-oriented or profession-oriented niche social network sites have emerged to provide different venues for people's different social circles, like Couchsurfing.com and Linkedin.com. But what about a place online that mainly designed for people to network with their family members, as if they have not networked enough with them in their offline lives? Believe it or not, there actually have been many family relationship-based social network sites out there trying and thriving, both in
According to their focus and functionality, these family relationship-based social network sites can be divided into the following two categories:
1. Providing a private space for family members to share and collaborate with each other, document their lives, and reconnect with out-of-touch family members. This type is especially useful within large families with their members spreading across long-distances. Sites like this include: myheritage.com, myfamily.com, famiva.com,genetree.com, geni.com, genetree.com, familylink.com, familyreunion.com, amiglia.com, storyofmylife.com, ourstory.com, and familycrossings.com. Some of these sites have their own special traits like helping you find people that might be related to you within the network, but in general they all focus on internal connections within the family. They all include basic functions like photo and video-sharing, blogging, commenting, event planning, calendars and reminders, world maps, profile and updates, and family tree-building. Some of these sites allow members to import their family trees from ancestry.com or to link to their Facebook profiles. The content on these sites provide rich material for genealogy study. One site called werelate.org is actually a public genealogy wiki for people to contribute and assist researchers in this field.
2. Providing a community for people to socialize as a family unit and connect with other families to create a network of families. Sites like this include: commily.com and Disney's family.com. These two are both focusing on sharing parenting skills between families. A notable site in this category is also piqniq.jp, it is " a social network for English-speaking families living in
Among all these family relationship-based sites, security and privacy are the most addressed important issues. By sociology measurements, there are two kinds of social capital existing in our society: bonding capital and bridging capital. The first category of family relationship-based social network sites provides bonding capital to its members, helping them develop deeper relationships within their existing social circle, while the second kind provides its members bridging capital by facilitating their outreach to new families. It is hard to weigh which kind of capital is more useful to these families, and maybe the perfect case is combining and balancing the two functions into one site.
Practical issues like how many members of a family would be active online due to varying ages and interests, and to what degree people would feel comfortable to share their family content with other people might determine the fate of these family relationship-based social network sites for now. But at the very least we can rest assured that family relationships have been taken into considerations and addressed by the social network sites. I also hope to see how these sites evolve and gain more traction with the upcoming "born digital" generations.