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Posts Tagged ‘social ties’

Inventing the Social Network

What did people do before they networked?

Maybe they pulled strings, used connections, kept good company, took advantage of protectzia, or deployed guanxi. “Networking,” as in “making use of a network of people,” did not even appear in English until the late 1970s. “Network” itself usually meant a television broadcasting system such as NBC; the notion of a social network was essentially unknown. Today, most Americans understand a social network as a set of Internet contacts—and perhaps more subtly, per the movie of that name, as a comment on Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who may not have gotten so far without his connections.

The concept of a social network emerged from sociologists’ and anthropologists’ efforts in the 1960s and early 1970s….. See the rest of this post at the Boston Review here…..

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American Ties (I)

In July, 2006, the New York Times ran a  scary story headlined, “The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier.” It was one of many news accounts that summer that reported on a dramatic finding from a study newly published in a major sociology journal. The authors had discovered that about 25 percent of Americans interviewed in a 2004 nationally representative survey had answered “no one” when asked with whom they had “discussed important matters” in the previous six months – and that percentage was way up from the 8 percent who had answered “no one” in a similar survey conducted in 1985.

Ra'ike via Creative Commons

In two decades, commentators decried, the nation had suffered a plague of isolation.The notion that Americans were becoming isolates confirmed many people’s darkest suspicion and soon became the conventional wisdom; the study was cited everywhere. However…..

I was skeptical of the 2004 survey results and explained, in detail, why I thought they were in error – three years later in the same journal. More important, a canvass of many surveys on Americans’ social ties reveals no other data showing growing isolation. Instead, surveys generally show that relatively few Americans report being isolated and that the percentage who do has changed little in decades. Modern Americans seem not particularly isolated and seem not to have gotten more so.

(Disclosure: This post is part of an occasional series drawing from a new book of mine, Still Connected: Family and Friends in America since 1970. Further details can be found there. In an earlier blog post, I discussed the decline of formal dining.)

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