Colin Barry

Your Social Network Over Time (CSN, Monday, Week 8)


I am a poor judge of social need.

People don't have many close friends.
-- Survey in 2004: 25% of Americans do not have someone they can talk to about serious personal issues (close friend).
-- Trend over past 25 years or so: more people are good friends with their spouse, fewer people have friends other than their spouse.
-- Best predictor of your number of close friends: years of education.
==> Corollary: Well-educated, high-income people often have bad personal intuition about the value proposition of social media. Because they already have friends...
==> Other corollary: Minorities (racial, ethnic, sexual, etc.) are some of the heaviest users of social media. People prefer to associate with others like them (homophily); this often shuts minorities out.

Old people are alone a lot. Call your grandma.
-- Average 70-year-old: 185 days a year with no interaction with a close friend.

Sparse networks of friends vs. dense networks
Sparse: better ideas (less groupthink), correlated with income/promotion/success in men. NOT correlated with career success in women (usually need a dense network with a strategic partner/mentor).
Dense: friends take better care of you.

Great predictor of success in long-term romantic relationships: degree of integration of your social network with your spouse. (Comment: Maybe just increases the "cost" of divorce, keeps marriages together longer than they should last...).

Biggest unmet social needs:
-- Close relationships, esp with family (you can't pick your relatives)
==> Facebook is NOT designed for 70-year-olds.
-- Distance
-- Un-intrusive, easy-to-use technology