“High-Bandwidth Buddies” and Social Media

Clive Thompson has written a really interesting article that challenges one of our core assumptions about social media.

We’re told all of the time that the most successful people are those who make lots of new acquaintances and have a diverse social network. But even I, as a high-intensity extrovert, struggle sometimes with just going onto LinkedIn or Twitter and discussing with people, especially just for naked self-promotion. I’ve always preferred talking about the important ideas and issues.

Apparently, most people are pretty similar. What Thompson points out is that our close friends aren’t necessarily super similar to us. In fact, amongst my own group of friends, one finds a host of ideological, religious, political and cultural perspectives and preferences.

As a sociologist, I find it interesting that maybe the idea of the strength of weak ties has been exaggerated. In my own personal experience, my opportunities haven’t generally come from a cousin’s roommate or someone distantly in my social network, but people closer by.

Certainly, social media can be valuable if all it does is expose us more to the people we care about, and show us surprising aspects of our relations with them.

I wonder about the pressure on introverts from the modern social media age, and the idea that we have to be always outgoing and interacting with others if we want to succeed. It’s bad enough if it’s true, but what if that’s a myth and people are erroneously seeking out interactions with strangers that are fraught with social and personal risk?