Did you know that there are social and cultural epidemics that spread in the same way as many biological and chemical diseases do? This is the overarching thesis behind the book "Connected", now making a worldwide buzz due to its groundbreaking approach on "networking".
According to the authors, the only way we can understand how certain attitudes or idea spread out is through the connections between people (Think "The Tipping Point"). The structure of networks also helps us determine how it is that people interact, allowing for a deeper understanding of our surroundings and ourselves.
In networks with a high degree of transitivity (interconnections), innovation and creativity are barely ever present. The positive side is that in these groups there is a strong sense of identity and a strong support system: close circle of friends, family, tight-knight community, etc.
HOWEVER, due to the high level of connectivity within them, in these groups, gossip ends up spreading like a wild fire. If someone gets a social, biological or cultural disease he can spread it to the whole network in a matter of seconds. In Mexico we have a phrase to describe these types of situations: "Small town, big hell". It’s the type of situation where everyone behaves the same, and sticks their nose in everyone else’s business.
Networks with a low degree of transitivity are characterized by the interaction of different social groups. If you happen to be a member of many social groups that are not connected to each other, you can be catalyst for creative change and innovation .In other words, you are a connector, and this allows you to have the human (social) capital that will enable you to create new projects and innovate in different arenas.
The downside of being a part of open networks is that a bad idea, or a virus, can hardly be contained. Whereas in the close-knighted network members infected by the disease can spread the disease to members of the same network, in an open network you are constantly spreading the disease to new networks. Thus infecting everyone around.
We’re all living in the boom of what is called the "networking" generation (by me : ) ). Thus, having a clear idea of who you’re friends are and what type of network you belong to can help you understand what is your role in society at large.
Are you a connector or a gossiper? Do you help bring new ideas to close knight circles or do you retain those ideas to create support for future community development?
These are important questions to ask, especially in an age and time when information is epidemic and age-old traditions are opening up to the world at large, all of these being the results of hyper connectivity.
ps. If you want to find out more about the connections within your facebook network and what the structure of the connection actually says about you I strongly suggest using the "Friend Wheel" application.