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I didn’t have enough Facebook friends to prove to Airbnb I was real


Social networking relies on nodes of friends connected by hyperlinks to pages of stronger and weaker connections. The majority of content on social media like Facebook is linked via a navigational “backbone” reachable through Friend Lists and Mutual Friends connected by edges of clickable navigational links to nodes of Profile Pages. One middle-aged mother tried to book a room for two in Bremen on Airbnb, a website specializing in rent for lodging between “hosts” advertising their spare rooms and “guests” contacting them to stay and pay.

According to Mark Granovetter, some ties can act as a “bridge” spanning parts of the social network and connecting otherwise disconnected social groups but “no strong ties is a bridge” (Granovetter, 1973, pg. 1364). This woman formed a strongly connected component of strong ties to fifty close friends connected to each other, but not enough friends of friends or weaker ties to diffuse throughout a larger network and for Airbnb to verify her online presence (Granovetter, 1973, pg. 1366). When she initially logged into Airbnb, she found a room (“Sabine”), filled out her credit card details, and booked but soon received an email saying her identity was not accepted and her money returned.

The computer algorithm most likely verified a user’s identity by counting the number of in-links to and from his/her Profile Page to the number Profile Pages, messages, and wall posts exchanged between friends and himself/herself. Unfortunately, the website required some users to verify their offline identity through a driver’s license or passport and their online identity through a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google Account. It’s possible that this woman’s social network contained too much homophily clustered around others with similar interests and ideas, leading to fewer out-links to weaker, more distant ties. After three days, three lost bookings, and two calls to Airbnb, she was finally able to upload a video to one of Airbnb’s verification specialists to confirm her identity and book a room.

It’s interesting how she refuses to mention her name, especially since she does not want to broadcast her friendlessness over the Internet. She believes that a Facebook Friend is someone she is really friendly with and would rather receive a direct-benefit effect from experiencing understanding from disclosing her authentic self to her closest friends at a smaller personal cost in virtual insults or rumors. It’s more important for her to maintain a small, tightly-knit cluster of strong ties for emotional support with close friends then add fifty weaker faraway relations to verify her self-identity on Airbnb.


Granovetter, M. (1973). The Strength Of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from JSTOR.



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