#305 The Facebook effect: good network breeding
Friday 18th January, 2008
By what measure is Facebook a ‘good’ network?
Breeding matters. Is that not what writers such as Austen and Bronte spent so much of their literature qualifying? For livestock, good breeding means that they are healthy; for social networks this translates over into a qualification of not how many, but the quality of network links. As the pedigree of social networks Facebook holds its own and, in turn qualifies who are a part of the same network. A modern case of where being networked is a value to unto itself.
Much debate about social networks has been led by the press led scare mongering of ‘time-wasting’ that has been a cultivation of the less than sophisticated means of communication and devaluing of information. Moreover, the latest observers of New Social Media (NSM) have been quick to criticise the rise of the ‘cult of the amateur’, or as I like to re-phrase the ‘stupidity’ of the ‘many’ who are those that seek to gain credibility by building up connections that are quantifiable, rather than qualifiable. However, in terms of social networking and the cultivation of a Facebook presence it must be recognised that this network alone holds a diverse lot. Version 1.0 of the Web was previously the domain of the ‘super geek’ and then the ‘educated elites’, before Facebook opened its doors, now ‘anyone’ can be networked to everyone.
And so back to ‘breeding’. To cut to the chase there are two sets of agenda that take place when cultivating a social network.
- Scenario no. 1. an individual who wants to manage their own already established networks in order to stay well informed and in touch.
- Scenario no.2. for all those network junkies, for whom social networks become valued by the quantity rather than the quality. These are the individuals that are most likely to give you ‘good karma’ or to add you to their ‘HotList’.
Now this may be too simplistic a division, but in terms of groups of friends this does provide some measure to begin to separate out the kinds of relationship stratifications that are taking place. Think of the above scenarios as representative of two ends of a continuum and two extreme sets of network personality. At one end; is the network junkie, and at the other, the network select.
Taken as a collective social networks begin to take on a form and life all of their own. For example, that first instance when someone who is ‘known’ through a network and is also ‘friends’ with someone else on Facebook. In a sense these are aggregations of connections upon connections that build upon points of contact. Such connections all affect our judgements and value of ‘friends’ and friends of friends. In this respect digital social networks represent that, that the individual is already familiar, ie. the networks that they are aware of and as they appear offline. On, SNSs these hold and expose what these connections might be, where links are automatically shown between ‘friends’, in a limitless capacity. On Facebook one of the most striking actions is that these kinds of connections are connections that are made for us. Did you know, that so and so knew so and so? Connections, that no matter how tenuous would in the ‘real’ non-networked world have been all to easy to miss.
For many on Facebook the key to good networking is through the right connection, and sets of friends. Taken as a one, the individual is solely responsible for their own networks; making and breaking connections along the way. As a member of a community of networks and series of links the individual represents the weight of the group and ‘power’ of association. And such associations need not be tied to numbers, but to the type of network that is being ‘bred’, or that one is a member of.
One valued connection on Facebook is worth more than the 100s of anonymous ‘friends’ on MySpace. Why? Because you ‘know’ the other person and have a vested interest in the value of your own network.Tweet