Sunday, December 2, 2007

Interesting perspective: Social Networking behaviors are analogous to those in Tribal Societies

A very interesting and thought provoking read in The New York Times about Social Networking. The author of this article investigates social networking behavior as a type of orality observed in may tribal societies.

The article states that online social networking behaviors and tribal behaviors are similar:
In tribal societies, people routinely give each other jewelry, weapons and ritual objects to cement their social ties. On Facebook, people accomplish the same thing by trading symbolic sock monkeys, disco balls and hula girls.

“It’s reminiscent of how people exchange gifts in tribal cultures,” says Dr. Strate, whose MySpace page lists his 1,335 “friends” along with his academic credentials and his predilection for “Battlestar Galactica.”
The article acknowledges that there are major differences between these two:
As intriguing as these parallels may be, they only stretch so far. There are big differences between real oral cultures and the virtual kind. In tribal societies, forging social bonds is a matter of survival; on the Internet, far less so. There is presumably no tribal antecedent for popular Facebook rituals like “poking,” virtual sheep-tossing or drunk-dialing your friends.

Then there’s the question of who really counts as a “friend.” In tribal societies, people develop bonds through direct, ongoing face-to-face contact. The Web eliminates that need for physical proximity, enabling people to declare friendships on the basis of otherwise flimsy connections.

This approach to studying online social networking is good. In the sense, we can probably come up with new features in social networking sites based on what has worked on the real world Oral societies.

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