Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Geeking Out over A Facebook Analysis

I tend to geek out about things like this, so you'll unerstand why I thought this statistical analysis of Facebook connections by some guy named Pete Warden (don't know him myself) is so interesting.

This analysis is interesting for a few reasons. First of all, it shows that despite the omnipresence of the Internet and social media, we're still not as socially connected as we think. Warden's analysis shows that while some Facebook users may have connections all over the nation and into the world, for the most part we're most connected with the people we're closest to regionally and culturally. For sociologists, that's probably not a surprise, but I think it does take the wind out of the sails among those who say the Internet and social media unites everybody. We still tend to congregate with the people we're like the most.

Take the region I live in, for example. Here's how Warden describes it:
The only region that's completely surrounded by another cluster, Mormonia mostly consists of Utah towns that are highly connected to each other, with an offshoot in Eastern Idaho. It's worth separating from the rest of the West because of how interwoven the communities are, and how relatively unlikely they are to have friends outside the region.
Remember, this is neitehr good nor bad. It's neutral information. It's a fact derived from data. Sure, there are exceptions. I, for example, have connections in Michigan and France. But for the most part, I am as Warden describes the folks who live in this area. Except I don't much care for either Glenn Beck or Twilight.

What's interesting here is that it provides interesting fodder for people working to start up or porpagate social networks, like Uncharted. We're smack in the middle of Mormonia (Logan, Utah) so if Warden's norms hold true, we've got to try harder building contacts outside of Mormonia if we want the network to grow considerably> Stay inside Mormonia and yeah, we'll grow some, but we won't get the geologic diversity that we desire. I've thought long ago that it would be a good idea to get a feel for where our "friends" on Facebook come fom, and where our Explorers call home, to see if we're breaking out of Mormonia or if we're still insular. My guess -- without any data here -- is that we're insular. Maybe this could be a project for the weekend.

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