Social Connections: from Something You Inherit to Something You Earn

(I’m writing this on the amtrak to NY as my computer quickly runs out of battery, and I have no charger, so this’ll be short…)

Somehow, earlier this week, I came across Zenep Tufekci’s piece from last spring in the Atlantic on Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships.  I liked it, but I guess of course I would.

The article responds to the commonly-held idea that social media is removing human contact, and her point is that it’s actually just shifting it, and is likely net increasing it.

But the idea here that really stood out to me is that social connections are moving from “something to inherit” to “something to earn”:

In sum, social media is propelling transitions and disruptions in the composition of social networks. Increasingly, what used to be a given (social ties you inherited by the virtue of where you lived or your familial ties) is now a task (social ties based on shared interests and mutual interest). Surely, there will be new winners and losers.

That is a pretty profound and inspiring statement.

Of course, the social connections you inherit will always be powerful (for better or worse).  But the fact that we now have a vastly enhanced ability to earn and build our own social connections is a big deal, and a nice way of thinking about things.

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