Is Sharing Caring?

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In looking at the networks that have become as Manuel Castells puts it “the defining social structure of the information age”[1] it begs the question of how this has come to be.  Are networks something we have created because of an innate need to connect or do networks build on themselves, making us increasingly need them as we learn to define ourselves in terms of them?

Why is it that we feel so compelled to be connected?  Is it to have a platform to share information?

David Singh Grewal[2] argues that networks have power that is based in social coordination and conventions that compel us to be part of them and that force us to converge into one, the most valuable network.  His definition of a network is “a group of people united in a particular way that makes them capable of mutual recognition and exchange…the particular shared norm or practice that its members use to gain access to one another.” Therefore, he talks about “network power” or the fact that networks can compel us to choose one network over another by its value, or which has the most relevant people in it.

The example that immediately came to mind for me was Facebook versus Myspace.   We eventually came to make a choice between the two competing social networking sites and following Grewal’s logic gradually that choice became less about specifics of each site and more about who was on each site, which site had more people that you wanted to interact with. Why would you use one site when everyone is on another when the very nature of the site is to connect, and share?

Going back to the original question, we feel compelled to be part of networks with the most people so that when we broadcast our messages we have the farthest reach, but why? Have we developed an increasing need to share information as our society has been restructured into a network society or is the need to share information inherent and networks were created as a result, to facilitate the process?


[1] Amelia Arsenault “Networks: Emerging Frameworks for Analysis” Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory. London: Routledge.  (March 2011)

[2] David Grewal “Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization” Lecture Carnegie Hall for Ethics in International Affairs, December 3, 2008.


One thought on “Is Sharing Caring?

  1. Excuse my little bit of rambling before I get to the point, BUT: Once upon a time, I had over 1000 facebook friends. In fact, I prided myself on 1080 friends despite the fact that some people seem to dislike me…But then, before I got to grad school, I went through and deleted about 380 friends (dropping the count to 700-mostly because I knew someone who had only about 200 friends and he’s absolutely cool and I wanted him to think I wasn’t “all into Facebook either”). Anyway, dropping the friend count quickly turned to panic in my mind. What if people noticed I had de-friended them? (Some did, and in fact, re-friended me, something I always consider shameful about doing.) What if people thought I wasn’t cool because I didn’t have a lot of friends? And so the thoughts went on…(And I’m slowly upping my numbers, too.)

    So in response to your post, Z’leste, what I wonder about with networking is why oh WHY do we feel like we have to be part of networks? When I dropped all those friends, did they feel like I wasn’t a good friend? I ask your question again, why do we feel compelled to be part of a network, or do we just want to be part of a process?

    With social media, the line gets blurred. We have to figure out a way to network without the artificial network. 🙂


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