The term social network designates social ties that link people without the intensity of social interaction and common identity of a social group. A social network resembles a social group in that it joins people in social relationships; it differs from a social group because it is not the basis for consistent social interaction and generates little sense of common identity or belonging. Social networks also have no clear boundaries, but expand outward from the individual like a vast web.
Social ties within some networks may be relatively primary, as among people who attended college together and have since maintained their friendships by mail and telephone. More commonly, network ties are extremely secondary relationships that involve little personal knowledge. A social network may also contain people we know of or who know of us - but with whom we interact infrequently, if at all. As one woman with a reputation as a community organizer explains, "I get calls at home, someone says, 'Are you Roseann Navarro? Somebody told to call you. I have this problem ... ." For this reason, Mark Granovetter has described social networks as clusters of weak ties.
Even though social ties within networks may not be strong, these relationships represent a valuable resource that can be used to personal advantage. Perhaps the most common example of the power of networks involves finding a job. Albert Einstein, for example, sought employment for a year after completing his schooling, and only succeeded when the father of one of his classmates put him in touch with the director of an office who was able to provide a job. Thus, even in the case of a person with extraordinary ability, who you know may still be just as important as what you know.
Nan Lin and her associates produced evidence of the extent of such network- based opportunities. Conducting a survey of 399 men in an urban area of the United States, Lin found that almost 60 percent had used social networks in finding a job; this approach was much more common that any other. But although social networks may be widespread, Lin found that they do not provide equal advantages to everyone. In her study networks afforded the greatest advantages to men whose fathers held important occupational positions. This reflects the fact that networks tend to contain people with similar social characteristics and social rank, thereby helping to perpetuate patterns of social inequality.
XXV. Answer the questions.
1. What does the term "social network" designate?
2. What are the differences and similarities between a social network and a social group?
3. Are social ties within networks strong or weak?
XXVI. Give examples when:
social ties within networks are primary;
social ties are secondary;
social ties are weak.
The Structure of Social Interaction | Social Structure and Individuality | Summary | WORD STUDY | UNIT VII | Strain and Conflict | WORD STUDY | Kinds of Groups | The Nature of Group Cohesiveness | Primary and Secondary Groups |