Expanding your “weak ties” on Facebook

An article from NewScientist looks at the usefulness of “weak ties” among Facebook friends. This term dates back to a very influential sociology paper from the early 1970s:

In 1973, sociologist Mark Granovetter showed how the loose acquaintances, or “weak ties”, in our social network punch far above their weight in their influence over our behaviour and choices (American Journal of Sociology, vol 78, p 1360). Granovetter found that a significant percentage of people get their jobs as a result of information provided by a weak tie. Subsequent studies have revealed that weak ties benefit our health and happiness. Granovetter suggested that this is because these friends-of-friends aren’t like you, yet they are likely to be similar enough in social outlook and personal interests to have a positive influence.

Interesting suggestion in the article that we can only handle about 150 “genuine social relationships.” Even with tools like Facebook, relationships still require more focused interaction and we are limited in this regard. So if we have more than 150 Facebook friends, are we simply fooling ourselves?

Sites like Facebook allow for a broad friendship network with little maintenance needed by either “friend.” A question I have: while these “weak ties” may now be more accessible, how often do people use them to their direct advantage? Say I am looking for a job – can I find one on Facebook? I have several friends that are selling products or services and this seems to be a good way to get word out.

Facebook makes divorce cases easier

Facebook doesn’t just connect friends – it also apparently makes divorce cases easier for many lawyers. According to the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers:

81 percent of its members have used or faced evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites, including YouTube and LinkedIn, over the last five years.

The article contains some interesting examples of participants saying one thing in court or to lawyers and then displaying something completely different in the online realm. It is a reminder that the online world is hardly private.