Basically, a social network is made up of individuals or organizations that are connected through various social contacts ranging from casual acquaintances to family members. Social networks are established to encourage connections and communication to occur on a wide variety of levels.
A basis for the theory of social networking was a study performed by Stanley Milgram in 1967 that established that any two random United States citizens are connected to one another by a series of six intermediaries, on the average. This idea was made more popular by the play and subsequent movie, “Six Degrees of Separation”, as well as the television show “Six Degrees”. Current Internet experiments continue to explore this concept, such as the Ohio State Electronic Small World Project and Columbia’s Small World Project. These experiments currently confirm that five to seven degrees of separation are sufficient to connect two people through the Internet. This also serves to confirm the potential effectiveness of Internet social networks to build new connections between people.
The first Internet social network began in 1995 and has 12.9 million visitors today. This makes it difficult to comprehend the rule of 150, also known as the Dunbar number, that states that the size of a genuine social network is limited to about 150 members. Over 200 Internet social networking sites exist and the number of members that belong to most them steadily increases.
In an Internet social networking site, a group of founders sends messages to invite members to join the site. Those members then invite additional members and the links continue to grow. Some social networking sites offer viewable profiles for members, address books and online social connections on a social or business level. Many Internet social networks are open to the public.
Internet social networks are a convenient way to link with new people, both personally and professionally. Consider that the senior director of Nielson/NetRatings, Jon Gibs, states that Internet “…social networking is not a fad that will disappear. If anything, it will become more ingrained in mainstream sites.”
About the Author: Todd Dickerson is a social networking expert and professional Web Developer. He owns one of the largest Myspace layout sites, LayoutHQ.com as well as other niche social networks.