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The Social Network – A Definition

Updated on August 8, 2010

The Social Network – A Definition

 Social networking has existed, in some form or another, since the dawn of civilization.  Social groups, starting from the cavemen, have networked with each other to establish links and bonds for their protection and benefit.  As civilization developed and became more complex, so did the complexity of these networks and soon there were specialized fraternities, guilds and associations of people with common interests and aims.  This kind of interlinking evolved until it became and important part of the social and business life that we know today.

 How networking was done changed with the arrival of the internet and the definition of social networking also changed.  Today we think of social networking as the act of expanding the number of people we know in order to develop our social circles and business activities.  The internet meant that we did not have to be able to physically meet a person to establish contact with them or to continue the relationship – everything can be done online and relationships can develop and flourish there.  Social networking sites now allow people to join and search for others with the same interests, opinions and goals to form links for mutual pleasure and commercial advancement.

 This has caused the evolution of the theory of “6 Degrees of Separation.”  The theory says that with an almost unlimited number of people who can be contacted, just contacting one person who can put you in touch with another should be able to lead you to anyone, anywhere within six stages.  This new definition of social networking moves the concept from establishing a circle of like minded people to being able to contact any person in the world – at least in theory.  However, for most people the practical definition of social networking is something more limited.

 Most people use social networks to link to other people with whom they can have a beneficial relationship – either personal or commercial.   Also, a person who joins a social network will ask his friends to join the network with him.  Those friends, after joining, will repeat the same process with their other friends until a linked group of people who would not have known each other in any other way is formed – a group that will continue to grow in an organic manner.  The modern definition of a social network is now, in its most common form, is that of a network of people who are able to transcend physical limitations and boundaries and establish relationships with people whom they could not otherwise meet.

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