Tightly vs. Loosely Knit Networks; or, The Echo Chamber

As I’ve observed before, the social network of Facebook tends to be a bit different from that of LiveJournal — the norm is to accept many more friend invitations.

The result is a more loosely-knit social network.  Whereas in LJ it is very common to have a pretty tight-knit network, largely composed of people who you know rather well, Facebook is leading towards friending a lot of people who you only know slightly.

I complain about that a bit, especially in asking the question, “Do I really care about these people?”  But I’m finding one real benefit to it: it has less of an echo-chamber effect than LiveJournal does.

The thing is, a closely-knit group tends towards a bit of groupthink.  That isn’t to say that everyone has exactly the same opinions or ideas, but the group itself, as a tight community, develops its own strictures.  Certain ideas predominate; those to the contrary tend to be a little quieter.  This can lead to an unhealthy belief that everybody, by and large, agrees with you.  (Locally, I often refer to the “Massachusetts Reality Warp” — many people locally really don’t understand how different this state is from the average.)

Facebook, I am finding, can be refreshingly different.  Granted, it tends to have less deep thought and opinion expressed than LJ — but when it does, it’s a fine opportunity to look outside one’s social shell.  No, you may not have seen this person since high school — but that means that they live outside your local echo chamber.  Engaging them in conversation can therefore be a much more productive chance to learn and teach, since you’re not preaching to the choir as much as you might be doing in a tighter-knit community.

Are your Facebook communities largely the same as your LJ ones, or are you widening your circle?  Have you found opportunities there to broaden your horizons?

2 Responses to “Tightly vs. Loosely Knit Networks; or, The Echo Chamber”

  1. Chad Says:

    I find FB to be _much_ wider and looser. A side effect is that I find myself reading (or at least scanning) almost everything that comes across my LJ friends page. I only read my FB feed when I happen to load it up and go in. Metahacker came up with the term ‘Frivia’ recently, and I find it very apt. I haven’t the time or energy for the glut of Frivia that FB brings. On the flip side, I have connections in FB to all sorts of people that may not even be on LJ. I may not follow everything, but I now have ways of finding and contacting people that I didn’t have before.

  2. Jim E-H Says:

    Yes, my community on Facebook is much larger and more diverse than on LJ, but I haven’t found much “think” there, group or otherwise. I suppose I could strike up conversations with these people I’m barely connected to, but I don’t feel motivated to do that any more than to chat with someone who happens to be cc’ed on an email a friend sends me.

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