By Jennifer McShane, GCD Intern

?Are you on Facebook?? is probably one of the most common questions that students will ask their new peers. It will surprise few that one of the easiest ways to get to know your new friends today will be to have a look at their online profile.

What started out as a bit of past time fun is now more than just a hobby for many ? social networking is now an integral part of our daily life. But just how far have we taken our online identities?

Since the social networking boom took off students, celebrities, public figures and politicians alike have all caught the blogging bug.

The social phenomenon that makes up Facebook, Twitter and blogging in general is now what dominates our online culture. According to a recent survey published on ;> in June of this year, the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites. The site also tells us that social networks and blogs have become more popular than e-mail.

The increasing popularity of social media is undeniable ? three of the world?s most popular brands online are social-media related (Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia) and for the first time ever, social network and/or blog sites are visited by three quarters of global consumers who go online (and the numbers of people visiting these sites increased by 24% over last year). The average visitor spends 66% more time on these sites than a year ago, almost 6 hours in April 2010 versus 3 hours, 31 minutes last year.

Here at home, Irish sites such as and continue to grow in numbers everyday with members using the sites to get information on virtually any issue they choose.

{module Island Banners|xhtml} As the figures above, we are spending more and more time online. This can be positive, negative or a little bit of both depending on which side of the fence you sit. Lets talk about the positives: It?s a fun and creative way to get everyone talking about current issues, it doesn?t cost anything and is a great way to keep contact with friends that live far away, at the touch of a button we are informed of events as they happen, we get the opportunity to meet a variety of new people who share similar viewpoints and can talk for hours at our own leisure about the things we like.

Then the negatives: Privacy issues - exactly how much of your information is going out to other websites? Issues like cyber bullying and paedophilia are subjects of constant concern and debate, spending countless hours online isn?t healthy, could encourage feelings of isolation and loneliness and it?s not very good for your social skills either. One can?t forget about the infamous Miley Cyrus incident in which she deleted her Twitter account because ?everything is better when your not wrapped up in the internet? and ?You can just enjoy the moment you?re in and stop telling people about it. ?

But then take Ashton Kutcher, a self-confessed ?Twitter Addict? who famously became the first person to have one million followers on Twitter and now has over 3 million. He said he started using it as a way to talk to fans and said he tweeted because he finds it fun; it gives you an ability to stay in tune with your audience; and it provides a platform to syndicate content on. He said it was an easy and inexpensive way to let people know content is coming out, and it was also useful to raise awareness and rally people around a cause. And many celebrities share the same view. Chances are if you like a particular pop or film star, they have a verified Twitter account. It?s a great way to get even a small glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous and doesn?t cost a penny!

There will always be good and bad things that come with social networking, some love it and some don?t but it is an issue that keeps people talking. Like all things, everything is good in moderation and when used in the right way it can potentially enhance our daily life. For those that are a fan it?s a source of fun and enjoyment and those that aren?t can simply ignore all the fuss.

If you would like to let us know about news and events in your college you can email