Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Friends of My Friends Are My Friends: Not Necessarily So!

Professor J. A. Barnes coined the word social network, in the 1950s, as an association of people drawn together by family, work or hobby and the size of a social network as a group of about 100 to 150 people. Online social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace and others, have brought about a new way of networking with friends. Once you create a personal account on Facebook you are presented with an opportunity to connect with individuals on your email contact lists if they are already on Facebook and an opportunity to invite them to join Facebook if they are not yet members. Well, as the saying goes - the friends of my friends are my friends. Facebook will recommend friends of your friends and their friends to you.

Recently one of my friends was surprised when he found that although I joined Facebook in 2006, I only have about 30 Facebook friends. This is very little compared to some Facebook users who have hundreds or thousands of “friends”.

Well, although, as Tim indicated - "social networks are not just your friends and your friends’ friends and so on. Social networks include people who you can’t really call friends but with whom you have a positive, yet weak, relationship". It looks like I am still stuck with my old and trusted way of social networking that I have been using since I was a small boy growing up in the mining townships of Kitwe, in Zambia.

My first social network, beyond my family members, emerged when I was a young boy running bare foot in the townships of Kitwe, Zambia. External members of my network were mainly from the neighborhoods. I knew them, knew their parents and knew where they lived. When I went to primary school, my social network expanded. It now included members from other townships. The school was our common denominator. It brought us together.

Later, at secondary school, my social network was joined by new members from other communities. These came from among students in my class, and clubs, i.e. Drama Club, Chess Club and History Club, where I was a member. By this time, I had has also lost some network members from the early years and my primary school days.

This approach to social networking continued through my universities days in Lusaka, Zambia, Addis Ababa and Johannesburg and of course into my working life all the way from Zambia to Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and now in Ghana. It has been quite difficult for me to change the approach. I always associate with people that I now well or trust. People that I interact with more often, either at work, at home or in my professional activities. I have no time for weak links, and I don’t think I have the capacity to manage hundreds or thousands of relationships, whether in the real or virtual world.

Well the friends of my friends and the enemies of my enemies are not necessarily my friends.

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