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Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

Facebook and the Influence of Social Networks

November 7th, 2009 No comments

Recently I read an article about how we are influenced by our digital social networks. I assume that most of us are familiar with the proverbial phrase “you are who your friends are”. This same idea may also be applicable to your digital friends and your friends digital friends and your friends friends digital friends. And if you are active in one or more social networking cites than that is probably a whole lot of individual many of whom you have probably never meet either face to face or digitally.    The article, Obesity, STDs flow in social networks by Elizabeth Landau, reiterates the idea that we are impressionable creatures and that those impressions may just as easily be made digitally as in person.  “New research shows that in a social network, happiness spreads among people up to three degrees removed from one another. That means when you feel happy, a friend of a friend of a friend has a slightly higher likelihood of feeling happy too,” states Elizabeth Landau in the article  Happiness is contagious in social networks and the video The Power of Social Networks . The same may be true for your eating habits, voting preferences, etc. However Landau explains “at the fourth degree the influence substantially weakens.” Dr. Nicholas Christakis the author of “Connected,” and Dr. James Fowler an associate professor at the University of California, have expanded on this new theory to explore the trends in cigarette smoking and obesity. An article by Fowler and Christakis in New England Journal of Medicine stated that when an individual quits smoking than their friends’ likelihood of quitting smoking was 36 percent. Moreover, clusters of people who may not know one another gave up smoking around the same time”.

These theories are still in their initial stages and somewhat experimental.  But, it will be interesting to see how their might affect other areas such as marketing and advertisement placing.  Already Facebook advertisers target their ads to individuals based on their personal information, tastes, hobbies, opinions, etc. so that their ads will be more appealing and you are more inclined to make purchases.  It will be interesting to see if knowledge of your friends and social spheres will increase that.

However, some people are unnerved by this influence or find that the lines between different aspects of their lives have become too blurred.  Christopher Butcher is an employee of The Beguiling a comic book store and has a Facebook group for the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Butcher explains that when Facebook was just for college students it “provided a inbuilt system of boundaries” but when everyone was able to join, Facebook “lost the aspect where what network you’re in defines the information you get.”

Similarly Fowler and Christakis have proposed that even though individuals may call hundreds of people on Facebook and other social networks their “friend”, or an equivalent term that points to some sort of connection or interest in an individual, the number of close friends that a person has did not necessarily change.  Christakis and Fowler found that people had approximately “between six and seven close friends on Facebook, which is not far from sociologists’ estimate that most people have four to six close friends in real life”.  They believe that a better measure of friendship is found though pictures.  If individuals tag each other in posted photos than they are more likely to have a close relationship not just the person you sat three rows behind one semester in class but never talked to.  Overall Fowler states that social networks like Facebook and Myspace are “just yet another way through which humans exert their inherent natural tendency to try to connect to other people that they care about.” With this knowledge it will be interesting to see how social networks evolve in the years to come.

Thoughts from a Twitter User

October 31st, 2009 7 comments

Recently I noticed that one of the people I follow on Twitter had been having what I thought of as interesting twitter followersconversations with someone that they follow.  Since I was interested and could only see half of the discussion I decided to follow that individual as well. I didn’t think that there was anything unusual or surprising about that decision. The following day I received a message on my Facebook account from that individual stating that they had noticed that I was following them and asking if I knew them.  I am paraphrasing their words which were said in what I perceived to be a slightly more harsh and accusatory tone.   I was a little surprised and I did not know exactly how to answer the question.  I had not thought that a face to face meeting was a necessary prerequisite to following someone via Twitter.  I did not think that was so for friending someone on Facebook either but I can see where the term “friend” and the idea of calling someone a “friend” might imply that your social spheres have crossed or that there was some level of cordial communication involved.  I did not see it that way at all for Twitter.

I was under the impression that the site promoted following based on the ideas and interests that the individual is tweeting about, among other things of course. Lisa Brookes Kift stated about social networks that they are “a great way to network and foster relationships with like minded people and those interested in learning more about topics that I know something about.” Twitter itself explains that this is a way for individuals to “stay hyper-connected to your friends and always know what they’re doing. Or, you can stop following them at any time. You can even set up quiet times on Twitter so you’re not interrupted. Twitter puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload.”  Dr.John M Grohol PsyD states that Twitter “is a unique form of online socializing. Twitter offers no real beginning, middle or end to a conversation. As a result, the open universe of non-stop, rolling chatter makes people feel like they don’t want to miss anything.”

Twitter is also not just for individuals and small businesses.  More and more twitter activity has become a corporate endeavor.  The suggestions for a successful corporate twitter presence differs somewhat from the common sense etiquette that individuals should follow but not all too much.   According to “Corporate Twitter” by Chris Miller these guidelines include listen to followers, add value and provide useful content, only follow others when followed or mentioned so to not to annoy or appear as spam, respond to every tweet directed at you, and use replies rather than direct messages so to appear more transparent.

Despite recent news hype warning of Twitter’s ability to destroy your non-internet related relationships by making you “less available to your children, friends and partners in your real-life world,” states Soren Gordhamer, an expert on the over-stressed and over-connected, as a new vehicle to “bruise our digital egos”, as a means to lower productivity through distraction,  etc. this is in my opinion an excellent tool for anyone interested in staying informed.