What are Social Networks? - Types & Examples

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  • 0:00 Introduction to Social…
  • 0:25 Definition/History of…
  • 1:38 Social Network Theory
  • 2:44 Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
  • 3:20 Types of Social Networks
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Quentin Shires

Quentin has taught psychology and other social science classes at the university level and is considered a doctoral colleague at Capella University.

In this lesson you'll learn what social networks are, where they came from, and how they are built. Also, take a quiz to see if you have what it takes to be a good social networker.

Introduction to Social Networks

If you're on Facebook, keep in mind that so are 1.15 billion other people throughout the world. In fact, 72% of all Internet users are active on social media today, indulging in social interactions and developing personal relationships. But you don't always have to go online to be exposed to social networks, as they come in a multitude of formats.

Definition of Social Networks

Social networks are simply networks of social interactions and personal relationships. Think about your group of friends and how you got to know them. Maybe you met them in elementary school, or maybe you met them through a hobby or through your church. Either way, you were exposed to social networks: meeting other individuals in a social situation, while developing strong personal bonds over time.

History of Social Networks

Social networking isn't just a term for the 21st century. In fact, social networking dates back to 40,000 years ago when cavemen would draw on the walls of caves, depicting animals in order to communicate and 'network' with other cavemen. The Romans also indulged in social networking around approximately 700 B.C.E. Rome was the center of communication and networking for everything that dealt with commerce, religion, politics, and even prostitution, so this makes a lot of sense. Since then, societies in different countries became more modern and pushed for social networks through town criers (in the 15th century), newspapers (in the 17th century), pen pal programs (in 1938), and electronics (in 1979).

Social Network Theory

The Social Network Theory (SNT) examines different networks of relationships between individuals and the common factors that bring them together. In a scientific form, SNT views relationships between objects, which are labeled as 'nodes'. Oftentimes, scientists using SNT will investigate the correlation between the nodes and the relationship that links them together. For example, imagine that you're standing in a room with another person. You and the other person are considered the nodes, and the relationship that links you together is the fact that you're standing in the same room. Of course, social networks can be more complex than this, but they all begin from the principle of objects/nodes and relationship variables.

Although Emile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tonnies first chartered social network theories in the late 1890s, major developments occurred later in the 1930s, specifically by Jacob Moreno. Moreno investigated social relationships by recording and analyzing the social interaction of small groups in classroom settings.

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