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Networks Built by Social Media

In his piece, Social Media, Pretend Friends, and the Lie of False Intimacy, Baer argues that social media gives its users a false impression of closeness to individuals labeled as “friends.” While social media does link people from all around the world of vastly different backgrounds, these “friendships” are merely links between people that would be considered at most acquaintanceship in person, as opposed to the deep relationships that take years to develop between people in person. Baer expresses this belief by noting that “in comparison to [his] pre-social media friends (many of whom I’ve known for 30+ years), I know almost nothing about [the people I’ve befriended on social media].” As a result of having so many shallow connections on social media, Baer admits to sharing less and less personal detail, resulting in followers and “friends” knowing close to no personal information about him.

In learning about graphs, in particular of social networks, it becomes easy to get caught up in predicting which edges will form next between nodes (based on properties such as Strong Triadic Closure) and to forget that a social networks graph based off of social media does not necessarily have edges equivalent to deep friendships that develop over time in person. A social networks graph based off of social media is not optimal for finding the friendships that will form next; however, such a graph would interest businesses and organizations that seek to widen their markets and audiences. Though a shallow link between people is not enough for a deep, meaningful friendship, it’s more than enough for advertising and awareness (take for example fads that go worldwide and celebrity news).

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