Here’s another article, this one from USA Today (sorry about that), summarizing the latest thinking on social networking and the “contagion” idea (see previous post on social networking and contagion). This article pulls together a few threads from different places…I like the idea put forth of flocking or schooling behavior as an analogy for human social networking. And this image of birds on a wire really spoke to me.
Of course, there’s the usual drivel in this article, this time from Michael Bugeja (Iowa State University) who expresses concern that social networking sites, like Facebook, are just data mining and not “programmed to bring you a friend”. Per usual, this sort of thinking misses the point. Facebook, like any of the social networking sites, is a tool. You use it to help you to build relationships, expand your network, deepen your connections. It’s like a fork or a shovel or a flashlight. Not inherently good nor evil – just a tool. No one is expecting Facebook to “bring them a friend” – they’re using it to deepen and broaden the connections they have. Why is it that people find that simple concept so difficult to internalize? And speaking of tools, they make the point, in this article that, in addition to using social networking sites as a tool to extend one’s network, it is also a tool for social scientists to use to accurately measure our friendships and connections. Good point.
I really like the wrap up in this article…”We’re not substituting online for offlline. We’re augmenting.”