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Social Sci LibreTexts

6.1F: Social Networks

  • Page ID
    8050
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    A social network is a social structure between actors, connecting them through various social familiarities.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Diagram, in miniature, your social networks using nodes and ties

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • The study of social networks is called both “social network analysis” and “social network theory “.
    • Social network theory views social relationships in terms of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors.
    • In sociology, social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.
    • The rule of 150 states that the size of a genuine social network is limited to about 150 members.
    • 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.
    • Milgram also identified the concept of the familiar stranger, or an individual who is recognized from regular activities, but with whom one does not interact.
    • Milgram also identified the concept of the familiar stranger, or an individual who is recognized from regular activities, but with whom one does not interact.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • node: They are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors.
    • social capital: The good will, sympathy, and connections created by social interaction within and between social networks.

    A social network is a social structure between actors, either individuals or organizations. It indicates the ways in which they are connected through various social familiarities, ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds. The study of social networks is called both “social network analysis” and “social network theory. ” Research in a number of academic fields has demonstrated that social networks operate on many levels, from families up to the level of nations, and play a critical role in determining the way problems are solved, organizations are run, and the degree to which individuals succeed in achieving their goals. Sociologists are interested in social networks because of their influence on and importance for the individual. Social networks are the basic tools used by individuals to meet other people, recreate, and to find social support.

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    Social Network Illustration: An example of a social network diagram

    Social network theory views social relationships in terms of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors. There can be many kinds of ties between the nodes. In its most simple form, a social network is a map of all of the relevant ties between the nodes being studied. The network can also be used to determine the social capital of individual actors. In sociology, social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.

    The rule of 150 states that the size of a genuine social network is limited to about 150 members. The rule arises from cross-cultural studies in sociology and especially anthropology of the maximum size of a village. 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 that found that two random U.S. citizens were connected by an average of six acquaintances. Milgram also identified the concept of the familiar stranger, or an individual who is recognized from regular activities, but with whom one does not interact. Somebody who is seen daily on the train or at the gym, but with whom one does not otherwise communicate, is an example of a familiar stranger. If such individuals meet in an unfamiliar setting, for example, while travelling, they are more likely to introduce themselves than would perfect strangers, since they have a background of shared experiences.

     

    Studies

     

    Recent research suggests that the social networks of Americans are shrinking, and more and more people have no close confidants or people with whom they can share their most intimate thoughts. In 1985, the mean network size of individuals in the United States was 2.94 people. Networks declined by almost an entire confidant by 2004, to 2.08 people. Almost half, 46.3% of Americans, say they have only one or no confidants with whom they can discuss important matters. The most frequently occurring response to the question of how many confidants one has was zero in 2004.