Circumstantial life events, influences, and surroundings change our behaviour, like social media for example, a movement that highly influences our relationships and interactions. But how large a role does networking through social media play in our lives? Maybe more than any of us realise.
Research suggests that most social networks primarily support pre-existing social relations. For the most part, Facebook is used to maintain existing offline relationships or solidify offline connections, as opposed to meeting new people. These relationships may be weak ties, but typically, there is some common offline element among individuals who friend one another, such as a shared class at school. This is one of the chief dimensions that separates social media from earlier forms of public communication, such as newsgroups. Research in this vein has investigated how online interactions interface with offline ones. Facebook users engage in “searching” for people with whom they have an offline connection more than they “browse” for complete strangers to meet.
While social networks are often designed to be widely accessible, many attract homogeneous populations initially, so it is not uncommon to find groups using sites to segregate themselves by nationality, age, educational level, or other factors that typically segment society, even if that was not the intention of the developers.
The relationship between individuals and their networks of people, either directly or indirectly, influence their lives. In the account of the pervasive and often bizarre qualities of social networks, it explains why obesity is contagious, why the rich get richer, and even how we find and choose our partners.
We like to think that we are largely in control of our day-to-day lives, yet most of what we do, from what we eat to who we sleep with, and even the way we feel, is significantly influenced by those around us and those around them, and those around them. Our actions can change the behaviours, the beliefs, and even the basic health of people we’ve never met. In a subtle fashion, social networks help spread contagions; create “epidemics” of obesity, smoking and substance abuse, disseminate fads and markets, alter voting patterns, and more.
Social networks can harbour a flow of generally undesirable things such as anger and sadness, unhappiness, but good things also flow like happiness, love, altruism, and valuable information.
“It is the spread of the good things that vindicates the whole reason we live our lives in networks,” Helen Kabasinga, an MTN employee, says.
“If I was always violent, you would cut ties with me and the network would disintegrate. In a deep and fundamental way, networks are connected to goodness, and goodness is required for networks to emerge and spread,” says Vanessa Munyana.
I don’t think that we’ll become fat because a friend’s friend is, but I do believe networking plays a role in our day-to-day lives.
From a sales perspective, think about how to positively influence already existing customers, clients, or brand advocates online. If you can successfully create positive emotions around your campaign or brand in any way, the ripple effect can be more pervasive and influential than you think.