I recently came across Nexus, an application that can map out the connections in and amongst all of your collected friends on Facebook. The result is, I think, pretty neat.
As you can see, my friends form some interesting smaller networks, through which they are all connected to each other (at the very least) through me. It is possible there are other connections which have not been ‘formalized’ through facebook, but at present this is how it stands.
The lower right collection of nodes are mostly representative of my life in Regina before I moved to Vancouver. They are friends from elementary and high school, earlier university days and from my year there after I returned from travelling but before I moved out here.
The lower left area (two diagonal lines) consists mainly of my family – or at least, those of whom are on facebook – and (strangely) all of the friends I remain in contact with from Terra Breads, where I worked for two years upon arriving in Vancouver.
The nodes which are relatively connection free (mostly on the right side) are people who I met while travelling and working in Australia and Europe, from 2001-2003. Not surprisingly, they know few of my friends from either my past or present.
The middle node is, to me at least, the most interesting. It has in it my girlfriend, my friends who I lived with, and all of my closest friends here in Vancouver. That entire network grew out of a chance encounter I had when I was looking for a second place to live after not really liking my first place or my roommates after arriving here. In a sense, it is the reason I stayed put, and I am very glad of that because out of it came all of the happiness that I have today.
The secondary node just above it is why I started writing this post today as I reflected on a book I recently read – Linked (How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and what it means for Business, Science and Everyday Life) by Albert-László Barabási. That book would probably describe that network as being fairly strongly connected internally but with a lot of weak ties radiating away from it – and it is because of that fact, and specifically that secondary node, that I: a) became a teacher/tutor for two years, whereby I; b) re-ignited my passion for learning and the world, which led me to; c) apply for grad school whereby I; d) became a part of the very tightly connected upper network, which is a physical representation of all of my friends/aquaintances from the UBC MBA program. Many of these people are now close friends who I will almost certainly know for most of the rest of my life. The important thing to note is that each node (a person) is connected pretty well to every other node within the network.
Strangely (on the surface at least), it will probably be that central network, with its many weak branching ties to other networks, that gets me my next job and not the very tightly knit MBA network. This is due in part to concept of The Strength of Weak Ties – a research paper written by sociologist Mark Grannovetter that was published in 1973 – which of course was described in Linked and which resulted in a, b, c and d in my own life. In other words, when you’re looking for a job, as I and many of my fellow MBAs are these days, it is best to look amongst large networks with many weak, branching ties; in that way, you are more likely to come across information that is not already mutually known, for example, the job board we all look at called COOL, which stands for Career Options On Line (I call weak sauce on the name, by the way; looking for jobs is not ‘cool’ – looking for jobs sucks, and takes time, and is generally demoralizaing. But anyway, I digress.) Which is not to say that this MBA network is not worth something – in fact, I think the opposite is true – it will be extremely valuable in the future (to each of us) as we all branch out in the different directions our lives take us and remain, importantly, weakly connected to one another.
In any case, I encourage you to have a look at the nexus friend application and examine how all of your friends and aquaintances are connected to you and each other. You can find it all here.