If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others – African Proverb

This week’s readings directed me to think of the different communities in my life and how I belong to them symmetrically and asymmetrically.  I think Kadushin addressing the basics of primary group formations was a great trigger to think of my individual role in my communities on and off line, and really parallel the two.  

My communities offline are directed by homophily and multiplicity.  Common interests I share with others in the groups drive Homans propositions (p.  76).  In these communities, my interests create meaningful connections, and I am really comfortable to pick and choose who I interact with, and what topics we relate to.  As a result, I have a lot of symmetrical relationships offline that reflect the compartmentalization of the different aspects of my life, however, none that I would really call pure informal relationships.  I have immediate and extended family, near and abroad, friendships based on past and current circles, direct work relationships, professional relationships, and cohort relationships.  These groups make up a larger portion of my offline network.  Asymmetrically, I belong to teams and associations, and lead a council.  What really caught my attention this week, is that I have far more symmetrical relationships than asymmetrical, with strong structural holes (p.  64).

Comparatively, an interesting feature about social networks, and my online participation is that they are extremely asymmetrical. It is actually very difficult to have a social media profile that remains symmetrical, because contacts on my network will extend invitations to others that I may not even know, creating a number of weak ties if accepted on my network – relating to Granovetter’s transitivity (p.  79). Moreover, because people online have been moving away from compartmentalizing their lives, people appear to have multiple social network profiles that overlap asymmetrical ties.  As I engage more in networking online, I find that maintaining multiple profiles a real challenge.  As a result of being in the MACT program I have profiles on Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, Flickr, and Pinterest.  Because some of these networks have been so course specific, and my relationships on those networks were weak ties, I no longer actively use them.  For many of these networks, I don’t even recall the passwords.  

Within online networks, the categories of symmetry and asymmetry can be broken down further.  Looking at my two primary networks; Facebook and Twitter, I thought they were essentially the same. The core of these networks focus around profiles, relationships and a newsfeed. But digging a bit deeper, each platform use is different.  Theoretically, on Facebook, you’re supposed to connect with close friends. Becoming friends with someone means they get to see your content,  but you also get to see their content in return (symmetry).  On Twitter, that’s not the case: you choose what information you want to receive, and you have no obligation to follow anybody (asymmetry).   Facebook emphasizes profiles and people, while Twitter emphasizes the actual content (in its case, tweets).  

Which online networks do you relate to most?  The seeming symmetry of Facebook, or the assumed asymmetry of Twitter?


6 thoughts on “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others – African Proverb

  1. I enjoyed reading your post, Gail. I completely share your asymmetry in online networks and compartmentalized symmetry in offline ones. I wonder if the distinction will remain true for very much longer, with an ever increasing need for more prevalent online presence.

  2. Lots to think about, Gail. Thank you! I also loved the quote you used. I too am asymmetrical in my social network relationships. I don’t think this is a bad thing. People can be multi-dimensional just as social media is.

  3. So far I feel like I relate to Facebook more than Twitter, because to date I find more value in my connections with people than with content. True, not everyone on FB is someone I am close with, but the type of online connection I have with them through FB is more…satisfying to me than Twitter. Maybe that’s because I’m not used to Twitter? I just tweeted Mayor Don Iveson last week and it made me feel kind of uncomfortable because I have no actual connection with him. But he has a Twitter account, so I can do that. Right?

    • I think that once you open an account with platforms like Twitter, you also open yourself up to communications from anyone who can access you on that platform. Scary thought!

  4. Pingback: 10 Master Ideas of Social Networks: brought to you by MACT 2013 Cohort! | Tanya's blog about everything

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