Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Texture of Social Fabric

In research on social support there is a term called “Density” which, when applied to social networks means “how many of my friends and family consider each other friends and family?” Greater Density has some definite benefits (if something goes wrong, any given person knows how to call in the cavalry to help, and they can better coordinate to supply any needs). It can also have some social cost, most commonly known as the gossip tree (is nobody’s business sacred?)

But I’ve been thinking about this in terms of social networking. What is ideal? Do you WANT all your contacts to know each other? Are we one big happy family? Or does this lead to all of us, like lemmings, pouncing on the same stuff, and nobody having access to completely separate, new ideas and resources?

Apply all this to Facebook (just to see if we learn anything)

I’ve had my ‘personal’ Facebook profile for about two years. My initial friends were all people from my online fantasy world… Harry Potter geeks, writers… the people I also talked to OTHER places online. And there was HUGE overlap… the 37 of us all were friends with all 37 of us [/gross exaggeration]… you get the idea… very dense and yet very confined… Yes, we all had external lives, but most of us preferred the reality-free zone and only brought tiny pieces of real life to the internet.

Now I found a few ‘early adopters’ among my high school classmates… and those added at a trickle (oops, am I really naked in front of these people? They actually KNOW me?) but the early adopters, by definition, are an open-minded bunch… Marie… Burt… not worried about being judged--they are grooviness personified…

But then there was the Class Revolution… I’m talking here about the SWARMS of people from high school that seemed to all join together, or near the same time, and suddenly, I was totally outed. Not only THAT, though, I had two distinct, large groups of friends… no overlap whatsoever with each other, but almost full overlap within… I was the single common denominator. (freaky)… Add college… I went out of state to college (moved from Idaho to Oregon), so one or two of my college friends met one or two of my high school friends, but the overlap is VERY small and weak—I’m not sure if on FB any of them have friended each other. And then there are the smaller groups… my family, the other close friends or families of friends… one or two of my friends are friends with my family and vice versa because they were all AROUND together, but the overlap is slim. Add my friends from former jobs… two from advertising, six or so from McMenamins… and (eek gad) a few people from Ann Arbor (now THAT is scary—people I see from time to time in real life watching my insanity online).

So it isn’t a uniform blanket—it is more like a bunch of sewn together pillows (and me the only thread—isn’t that a song?)… But you know what—there are different groups that I would go to for different reasons. Class reunion—one set—NaNoWriMo—different set—USC Trojans DESERVED their tromping a la Duck—different set.

Now apply this to the Social Networking System

My writer profile network is majorly dense, nearly 800 people, only about 80 or so from my 'real' friends (or personal profile). I have ‘friends’ who share 600 ‘friends’ with me… one of us shares a link from another, and pretty soon we have a wonky clogged news feed because the same link has been shared 85 times.

In that particular set, there is an agent… my starting point, possibly as many as half dozen, but few, by comparison to the number of writers. But I also have friended two OTHER agents who just amused me when I was agent searching… THOSE people only have maybe a half dozen common friends with me, even though they have 400 friends apiece… do you see where I’m going? (erm... no?)

It’s those people with few common friends who we all need to carefully watch and bring THEIR news to the larger group. It’s important not to get complacent (as I’ve been) and just add all the ‘suggested friends’ because you have 346 friends in common. We also need to be searching out NEW blood to bring into the fold… because largely it seems the network density has benefits, but also has the limitation of being limiting (courtesy of the Department of Redundancy Department).  Seriously though... in a way, it is bound.

So I’m charging ya’ll (even though I’m not southern) with FINDING someone interesting and bringing them into the fold this week!

HA! You didn’t know you’d get homework, did you?

NaNoNews: on 8586 words… WAHOO!


M.J. Nicholls said...

I'm better at maintaining online friends. You can swap them from time to time if they're no longer "alive" and find fresh blood.

I find it's important for writers to do this, but very few writers involve themselves in new online friendships, going solely for the self-promotion.

Watery Tart said...

Mark-I seem to be better at the online variety myself these days. It is just where I spend more time, and honestly, I feel like there is less risk in being open because SHOULD something go wrong, you can avoid said person. Ironically, I think that means there are fewer misunderstandings and less goes wrong.

And I've dived in face first to the 'networking for networking' but oddly enough, a couple rise to the top like the cream, making for great friends--that part has been extremely rewarding.

Helen Ginger said...

And therein lies the answer as to why I am not on Facebook. It sounds crazier than Twitter.

Straight From Hel

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Hart, this is a tough one for me. I actually have two separate Facebook for family and old high school and college friends, and the other as my professional, networking, and hanging out with writers spot.

As much as it would be nice to meld the two, I have some sorority sisters that WILL post old pictures of me from 1989-1990 that I'm not wild about my agent, editor, or readers seeing. :)

But I'm all for bringing in non-writers to the mix--I love to invite librarians, booksellers, and readers to be my FB friend. I just don't want them to be friends with my old sorority sisters. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Watery Tart said...

Helen-I can't figure Twitter out (at least not with much success), so I suppose you've got one, I've got one. When I remember, I Tweet when I post here, and I've been giving a word count for NaNo... but mostly its point eludes me.

Elizabeth-I've got two accounts too--my friends and family are largely only mildly interesting in the writing, so only big milestones go on that one, and LOTS of nuttiness (you've seen how I can be)--also keep most of my political opinions there. The Networking account doesn't have pics of my family, and I am somewhat more moderate in my streaking and suggestions of nudity (though I have a really hard time reining that in).

It was my observation though, that one set had all these mini-networks and I could link 'em and the other was just one giant network... I'm not sure that is quite as effective, but I don't know what to do about it, besides seek out knowledgeable people to add...

Chary Johnson said...

When reading your post, I thought of an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza spoke about his "Two Worlds Collide" theory, girlfriends mixing with regular friends.

I tried to keep them apart but somehow, I blame myself for not organizing properly, I have high schools friends, family and everyone mixed in to both accounts. Odd how that happened.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Right now, I am not too keen on uping my writer's profile - for no other reason than because I do not yet consider myself a proper writer. But when I do, I promise to bring in fresh blood!

And tell me about worlds colliding - I have my high school bunch, my undergrad bunch, my b-school bunch, hubby's extended family and the HPANA nutters. Each a huge enough bunch, and practically no overlap. There are random work collegues too, but no more than single digits for most places I worked in.

And it is crazy when the worlds collide. I am the same person, but different people see different parts of me, and when they interact on status messages, it can get fun! But I am pretty sure I cannot handle more than two profiles, so the twain just have to keep meeting.

Anonymous said...

don't you just love the way she can verbalize in esoteric terms something we have been doing fairly instinctively? Well, Hart, if I'd thought of making two FB profiles at the beginning (like I now have multiple blogs), I might have saved myself some embarrassment - mostly from my son who HATES to see me chatting writerly stuff because he wants to be in on it! Too late now to set up another profile; besides the density you write of is hugely interesting; definitely the way to go Anything which boosts comms has to be capable of interrelating, as - you know the new adage - the L & R hemispheres of the brain are coalescing at such a rate, the expression 'my mind' is already obsolete... well sortof - but we are speeding up at such a rate, density is for sure a necessity. Not that I left my high school/college group behind deliberately; they just don't speak to me any more!!!! do you suppose some find FB intimidating?
ps. you're logging in approx 2500 words a day at NaNo and you can still write this blog? I tell you, your Muse is in full flow
& pps to Rayna - none of that chat about 'I am not a writer....' self defeat is not one of Hart's tolerances.......

Watery Tart said...

Chary--Oi! The colliding worlds! Very stressful when one knows the real you and in the other you are pretending to be a successful importer/exporter, ne?

Natasha-you're DEFINITELY a writer, but I get what you're saying. There is a timing to it, at least I felt like there was... when the book was really done I felt a pull to get THAT writer out there. I suppose the agent will bring the push for a website--something I've pondered but felt was too pretentious, having nothing published (or soon to be published).

Marian-that family embarrassment is so plausible! Originally my intention to keep the 'Hart' profile professional was sincere, but I can only hold back the inner Tart so long (what was it, two months?) oh well. NOW I'm glad they're separate or I'd never see what my actual friends were saying because it would get lost in 'too many people' of the networking profile.