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The strength of weak ties

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/strong-and-weak-ties-why-your-weak-ties-matter

In a world where the the saying “Its not what you know. Its who you know” seems to be growing more prevalent, it is important to evaluate the social networks (the accumulation of close friends and more distant acquaintances whom we tend to familiarize ourselves with) that we are apart of. This saying alludes to a common misconception held by todays society, that amassing a multitude of strong social ties in your network is the best way to gain resources and information from your network. This however is not entirely true, author and Amastra CEO Eileen Brown discusses the importance of the cultivation of weak ties in a network, in her 2011 article, “Strong and Weak Ties: Why Your Weak Ties Matter”. Brown begins her piece by first exploring the composition of an average network, which consists of an assortment of strong and weak ties. She then goes on to discuss the little known advantages of utilizing weak ties in a network.

The concept of utilizing weak ties and the way in which it was discussed by Brown paralleled concepts discussed in networks 2850.  In lecture one of the networks course, Professors Kleinberg and Easley discussed similarly to Brown, strong and weak ties and how they are connected in networks. The course lecture went on to discuss the flow of information in networks and introduced the concept of a bridge, which was described as, “An edge whose removal puts its endpoints in different components.” This point from lecture seemed to resonate in my head following the class session causing me to ponder the potential interactions two nodes might have across a bridge depending on the strength of their relationship as well as the information that might then circulate through their individual components as a result of their interaction. Brown cites esteemed sociologist Mark Granovetter due to his analysis and research regarding this this very occurrence. Granovetter states that weak ties are, “not merely a trivial acquaintance tie but rather a crucial bridge between the two densely knit clumps of close friends.” His elaboration regarding this essentially revolutionized the way weak ties could be thought of in a network. Challenging the belief as weak ties as useless he pointed to their use as a bridge connecting to clusters of strong ties. In this arrangement diverse information is able to flow across the bridge and reach a cluster of strong ties that may otherwise not receive it. This information may be job opportunities in a field that is potentially not aggressively pursued by members of a strong cluster, or advancements in a field of less interest to that cluster. Professor Kleinberg and Easly’s lecture was given new meaning in light of reading this article. Their stress on the flow of what they described as “novel information” over a bridge in addition to the relevance of weak ties in these bridges by Brown has given me a unique perspective on the way I view the exchange and flow of information in networks.

 

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