As Kadushin (2012) points out, to understand social networks “as if people mattered”, psychological foundations of human social network interaction is necessary. In other words, what motivates people with how they network.
Kadushin (2012) identifies three main motivations to make contacts and networks: safety, effectance, and status. A safety motivation calls for a dense, cohesive network which allows individuals to easily access their supports. An effectance motivations is built upon a network with structural holes, allowing individuals to make connections or act as brokers. Status motivations are from pyramid structures and market-driven situations, or otherwise known as “keeping up with the Jones.”
It amazes me how simply our network interactions can be conceptualized using these three motivation classifications, and it especially helps me understand a “Facebook” crisis that I experienced a few years ago.
When I first opened up my Facebook account, it was serendipitous to when my “real world” friends had also discovered Facebook. Thus, my friend count would tangibly rise and the social interactions (truly the bread and butter of Facebook) would be frequent and valuable enough that I grew enamoured with the platform.
Safety Motivation. Facebook helped me reconnect/restablish the thick ties I had estblished.
But at some point, the motivation had changed for me. Facebook makes your networks more tangible in that it reminds you everyday how many friends you have. I think for me, there was a point in my Facebook life where this was seen as status. There was some perverse satisfaction coming from seeing how many friends I actually had, regardless of the quality of friendship it was.
By no means was it all artificial, many of the connections that I used to “up” my friend count with people that I had loose ties – but no real expectation of how that would evolve. Surprisingly, Facebook provided an opportunity to appreciate unexpected personas, wit, and talent that I would not be typically aware of. This is what I love about Facebook – it redefined my loose ties.
However, at certain point, the concept of friend became distorted, not out of an event – more so of trying to understand numbers. Killworth suggest that one’s circle of acquaintance may be as high as 650 (as cited by Kadushin, 2012), with a functional close relationship size of 150 people.
At Facebook crisis, I had hardtime understanding these numbers and translating them to the real world.
How do I keep up with 600 friends? I can’t afford that many gifts. Wait, if I have 600 friends, why am I not attending 600 parties?
Interestingly, Facebook was the impetus for me to evaluate why I have make connections and which connections were important to me.
To continue to use Facebook, I had to understand what I wanted from Facebook – that it would allow me communicate with close ties if need be and keep it contained. Based on Kadushin’s illustrations, I understand that I’m less driven by effectancy but I cannot completely deride my network of that motivation. This explains why I purged my friend list, leaving my close friends, loose friends, and interesting people.
Having a huge “friend” list for purpose of effectancy doesn’t interest me, and I now use Facebook to enhance my friendships. As a result, my preference is that I don’t use Facebook not so much for status or assertive effectancy. I just want to
On a practical sense, learning about these preferred motivations has helped me understand how to evaluate social network platforms, and how I want to use other network platforms for as motivations flux.
From a personal perspective, I better understand myself.