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Alex from Target and the Power of Networks

The newest trend in instagram, twitter, and all social media that follow hashtags, is the #AlexfromTarget. What would have been impossible a decade ago has launched a young, ordinary teen into fame due to the power of networks. The #AlexfromTarget phenomenon occurred in November 2 around noon. Alex Lee was working a shift at Target in Frisco, Texas bagging groceries  when a photo of him was taken secretly and posted on tumbler. A teen from London came across the post of Alex and decided to post it on her twitter with the caption “YOOO”. Soon after, the post became viral and the birth of  the now famous #AlexfromTarget came to be. That very same day, Alex noticed his new fame as his twitter account which only had 143 followers exploded with more than 100,000 followers.

The concept of networks and its mix with social media are very relevant in this event. Alex had a relatively small network ( twitter followers of 143 initially)  composed of his immediate contacts. However, without Alex even knowing, his photos on Tumbler connected him to a girl in a completely different part of the world with a completely different network not overlapping with Alex’s. Her post on her twitter connected Alex to even more people which each introduced him to each of their networks, therefore, exponentially increasing Alex’s “famous Target photo” to the point of international fame. Here, we see a small network (Alex) expanding with just one edge to other individual network clusters. As more people follow this tag, he’s “image” is connected to more nodes (people) and the cycle continues.

This would not have been available to occur if it weren’t for the immense connectivity of social media. Alex became famous, quite literally in a day. The speed of connection and formation of a much more complex network was due in form to the diversity there is in social media and to the integration of the internet in our culture. Each form of social media, twitter, tumbler, facebook, etc etc has a cluster of networks of people who prefer one over the other. Alex’s photo first appeared on tumbler, then was transferred to twitter and it continued as more and more people who have several associations with different social media propagated his fame. This allowed Alex’s picture to reach different cliques of networks.  Since, Alex’s photo was on several forms of media, the probability of people discovering him increased. And the power of networks, as discussed in class, shows how one edge can connect two completely separate groups and cause big change.



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November 2014