You know a technology is mainstream when popular thinkers start attacking it. Malcom Gladwell stirred up a bee’s hive when he dared to question in the New Yorker (Small Change: Why this Revolution will not be Tweeted) that networks like Facebook and Twitter could lead to massive social movements and great change; the ties just aren’t strong enough to get people to engage in high risk behavior, like risking their lives for revolutionary causes, he argues.
Gladwell apparently wanted to stir up some controversy, and he did. He strikes at the heart of the social media movement. Social networks are made up of “loose ties,” and this is where the argument lies–just what is the value of the loose tie? Are all those @name connections going to amount to anything? Are we fooling ourselves thinking we can replace deep human relationships with these fleeting versions? Is there a place for both?
The answer is: yes.
The reason is simple: loose ties connect us in ways we would have never been connected before, and to people we would never know or work with otherwise. Secondly, loose ties can evolve into close ties–indeed, they should in select cases.
Let me give you three personal examples: (more…)