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Online social networking gives

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new meaning to community

By JESSICA WILLIAMS-GIBSON

Social networking Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube have taken on a massive form changing how individuals communicate with one another online. IndyMojo can be added to that list as a site localizing social networking.

To some, online communities are perfect for keeping in contact with old friends and a great place to screen and meet new ones, but others wonder, what’s the big deal?

Sites like Facebook made social networking popular, but in actuality, online communities emerged around 2004 with the idea of finding individuals to participate in computer use rather than just being viewers of content; Web sites among others made it possible for users to create a participatory experience in being online.

“Social networking became an opportunity for individuals to find other people in the world that share their interest, relevant belief systems or ideologies. Social networking allows people to get together; it has stimulated ways for people to connect online,” explained Richard Edwards, assistant professor of media arts and sciences, IUPUI.

Networking newcomer IndyMojo decided to take the phrase “getting together” to new heights. As a locally focused online social community, it operates like the popular Web sites using elements of finding “friends” and being able to share as much or as little personal information as the user pleases.

What makes IndyMojo stand apart is users sharing one commonality – the city. The element of moving away from the computer and actually meeting the people you find on IndyMojo is what makes this site different.

“I create opportunities for all the members to go out and meet each other, go experience new things in the city, or find out about a restaurant,” said Ryan Hupfer, spokesperson for IndyMojo, who has also dubbed himself as a social community evangelist.

Whether it’s used to make friends, date or for business networking, IndyMojo member Eric Hooks believes there are advantages to localizing social networking and as an African-American, encourages other Indianapolis Black residents to get involved.

“It feels like a real community because you actually do activities with these people you meet through the site. It’s another way to know what’s going on in the city that you don’t hear about through the newspaper. And I’ve met some people that are really good for networking,” said Hooks.

Edwards believes localized Web sites such as IndyMojo bring a sense of humanness to online communities. Although there are safety issues that many worry about, Edwards also thinks the pros outweigh the cons when dealing with social networking.

In IndyMojo’s case, since the site is smaller and localized, Hupfer personally manages the site and as it grows will add more moderators accordingly. There are also self-regulation components that allow users to “blacklist” other users who are potentially dangerous. Participants can also alert Hupfer of inappropriate behavior such as nudity.

Although social networking is technically still in the early stages, older adults haven’t been infected with the social networking bug like younger demographics of society have. IndyMojo’s average user age is 26 years old, but as current users of all social networking sites age, so will the potential to become a necessity, just as e-mail has become.

“Social networking is a hybrid activity. As the demographic ages, they’ll take these lessons forward. New forms of the practice will be developed,” said Edwards.

IndyMojo is just one of the many sites that is taking the phenomena of social networking to new heights. It’s taken online communities away from the computer screen and is using the city as another way for residents to connect.

“I’ve seen how many opportunities can come from an online social community and I know the potential of what this can become,” said Hupfer.

For more information, visit www.indymojo.com.

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