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Social Sci LibreTexts

5.3H: Social Networks

  • Page ID
    8043
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    A social network is a social structure that exists between actors—individuals or organizations.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Assess the role of social networks in the socialization of people

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • A social network is comprised by various nodes and the ties that connect them.
    • Nodes can be individuals or organizations.
    • Ties are the various types of connections these nodes. Ties are assessed in terms of strength. Loose connections, like mere acquaintances, are called weak ties. Strong ties, like family bonds are called strong ties.
    • The study of networks is called either social network analysis or social network theory.
    • The small world phenomenon is the hypothesis that the chain of social acquaintances required to connect one arbitrary person to another arbitrary person anywhere in the world is generally short. The concept gave rise to the phrase “six degrees of separation” after Stanley Milgram’s 1967 experiment.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • Ties: They are the various types of connections between nodes.
    • node: They are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors.
    • Social Network Analysis: It is the study of social networks

    A social network is a social structure that exists between actors—individuals or organizations. A social network indicates the way that people and organizations are connected through various social familiarities, ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds. Social networks are composed of nodes and ties. The person or organization participating in the network is called a node. Ties are the various types of connections between these nodes. Ties are assessed in terms of strength. Loose connections, like mere acquaintances, are called weak ties. Strong ties, like family bonds are called strong ties.

     

    Shape and Size

     

    The shape and size of social networks influence their utility for their nodal participants. Smaller, tighter networks composed of strong ties behave differently than larger, looser networks of weak ties. The looser and larger the network, the more likely nodes are to introduce new ideas and opportunities to their members. Participants in smaller networks are more likely to share values and information, increasing efficiency, but decreasing creativity.

    image

     

    Diagram of a Network: Individuals in groups are connected to each other by social relationships.

     

    Small World Phenomenon

     

    The small world phenomenon is the hypothesis that the chain of social acquaintances required to connect one arbitrary person to another arbitrary person anywhere in the world is generally short. The concept gave rise to the famous phrase “six degrees of separation” after a 1967 small world experiment by psychologist Stanley Milgram which found that two random US citizens were connected by an average of six acquaintances.

    Facebook as a Social Network: This video discusses the merits and problems with Facebook as a social network.

    The study of social networks is called either social network analysis or social network theory. Research has indicated that social networks operate on many levels—from familial to national—and play a critical role in determining the ways that problems are solved, the way organizations are run, and the degree to which individuals succeed in achieving their goals. Social network theory argues that individual traits and characteristics usually presumed to have significance actually matter far less than an individual’s relationship and ties to other actors in a network. Critics argue that this perspective diminishes the power and agency of the individual. Despite these criticisms, sociologists study social networks because of their influence on individuals. Social networks are seen as the basic tool individuals use to connect to society.