Asymmetry and social networks

Hishers Social networks don't mirror real networks. Despite all the claims made for them. Even though the activity may make them look like the real thing. 

Last Sunday I made contact with Alex and Rosemary in New Zealand. After an interval of 34 years. Thanks to Facebook. But only via an exchange with Alex on Rosemary's ID. Because he doesn't have a Facebook ID. And he's not the only one. My wife Karen has a Facebook ID – which she barely uses. And which she initially opened to see what I was posting – particularly when away on business.  Take any couple at random and compare their online activity. You will see that they usually differ markedly. One may be much more active – the other less so or active in a different area. Why is this?

Because couples have merged and dispersed their separate identities. Aside from couples who dress in identical fairisle jumpers or matching shellsuit – which we conventionally ridicule because it goes against the norm. One of the principle benefits of being in a partnership is not doing all the same things to the same level. If one of you is into gardening, or into photography. Then the other doesn't normally get involved to the same level. You don't take turns to do the household accounts – there is a division of roles. The network effect of this can be put even more extremely than this. The reason why the partner no 2 is less involved is directly because it is partner 1s thing – they are bringing this as an asset to the partnership.

The-osbournes If I'm right about this – and I don't deny its a controversial point of view. Then social networks are flawed because what they represents is a series of individual perspectives. But they don't reveal other parties who are not online but are still connected by conversations and who may crop up in photos. And whose influence is undoubtedly there – but not explicitly acknowledged.  I'm not talking about 2 people sharing one account either. The reason it matters is because social analysts and netnographers want to treat online social media artefacts as somehow complete when they are actually a distorting mirror – a faithful reflection of the online interaction but very different from the offline world.

Which is important if we are trying to use the buzz of social networks to mirror real world household studies. Its like the missing sister of the Osbourne family – who lived in the house the entire time the TV series was being filmed. But who never appeared in any of the shows. Continuity anybody?







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