FOR many people social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter are part of daily life.
They’re a means of keeping in touch with friends, seeking out old classmates as well as sharing photographs and thoughts with others.
They can also be used to connect with people with shared interests – for good and bad.
One Huddersfield mum-of-three found her experience to be divisive and even called the police at the weekend after growing concerned about what she saw developing online connected to recent news about the murdered Liverpool toddler James Bulger and the two boys convicted of his murder.
A Facebook and text message campaign wrongly named Blackpool man David Calvert as being killer Jon Venables.
Facebook, MSN messaging and a website called Tagged.com were used by Peter Chapman, a convicted sex offender, to lure a young victim.
Chapman, 33, posted a photograph of a bare-chested, good looking boy in his late teens on the Facebook social networking site to snare 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall, who he raped and killed.
And while the police told the Huddersfield mum they could not act over the incident she reported, it does raise an issue about the use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Myspace in everyday life.
Sites like Facebook have been great mediums to bring people together with a shared aim.
The good can be found in the Move Our Maternity Services (MOMS) back to Huddersfield campaign launched by Alanna Delahaye and Glynn Bates after the death of their baby girl Maisie in September 2008.
They formed a Facebook site to raise awareness of their fight to have consultant-led maternity services moved back to Huddersfield.
The site currently has 6,756 members and is a great example of those with a shared view registering their thoughts for change.
Nationally, there was the well-publicised campaign to prevent the X-Factor song getting to the Christmas Number One.
What began as a couple starting a Facebook group grew to have the support of almost 500,000 people. It was all a bit of fun and was successful too, keeping the X-Factor song off the top spot in the process.
But then there is the negative too, as experienced by the Huddersfield mother, who has asked not to be named.
She telephoned West Yorkshire Police on Sunday after seeing people post inappropriate comments about the tragic murder of James Bulger on group pages set up in memory of the toddler.
The mum-of-three said: “People hide behind sites like Facebook and Twitter.
“It was disgusting what people were saying on these pages and they’d probably never say it in real life to anyone.”
Facebook company figures reveal it has more than 400 million active users, with a staggering three billion photographs uploaded to the site every month.
There are currently more than three million active pages – or groups – to join including some about Huddersfield, Huddersfield Town, the Giants or for various pubs and clubs.
Sarah Jane Robinson, principal lecturer in psychology at Huddersfield University for the last four years, said there were both positive and negative aspects of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The social psychologist said: “There is a need for people to communicate with each other.
“Within social networking sites you can accumulate friends, sometimes in the loosest term, and they can learn about each others hobbies and interests.
“But of course there are some negative things about social networking sites.
“They can be detrimental to society, they can lead to poor interpersonal communication.
“There is a loss of face to face social contact skills too – we communicate as much through body language as we do in what we say, which sites like Facebook and Twitter do not allow. So humour or sarcasm can be misunderstood in the same way it can in text messages or emails.
“There is also the tendency for us to say things more spontaneously, without thinking about it.
“Another potentially dangerous aspect is that people will say things that they wouldn’t normally say to a person. It can raise an issue which wouldn’t be raised during face to face contact.”
Sarah Jane believes someone’s social networking site is a projection of how they want to be seen by others.
“Within seconds news and opinion can be broken on sites like Facebook or Twitter and shared among many other people.
“What they do and say can have an immediate response – good or bad.”