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Bored? Don’t have a date? Forgot have that relationship to end all others? Think it might be that time?
Don’t wander off into the wilderness alone – use your networks – ask a friend or family member to recommend a good person they know. Encouraging your friends to be match-makers and getting introduced to an acquaintance with good connections may sound like something straight out of a Jane Austen novel – but it is also the core idea behind a very new online dating scheme called the 100 dates project. Let tribe contributor Rose take you through the details in a gorgeous radiophonic documentary called ‘Love in the Cloud’ – highly recommended listening.
I’d be hazarding a guess that the founders of the 100 date project have done some research into social network theory and the importance of ‘weak ties’. If you haven’t heard of social network theory then the chances are that ‘a’ you know someone who has and ‘b’ you have heard of it as of ‘six degrees of separation’.
Basically, it’s a way of mapping and understanding our social connections. A theorist might start by sketching your personal network by indicating you as a dot in the centre of the page and drawing lines from you to other dots representing your close friends and family ties network. These are your ‘strong ties’ – people you trust and tend to rely on in a tight spot. Beyond your strong ties would be another rim of nodes (representing people) that you don’t consider yourself as ‘close’ with – but who you would invite if you were having a big party. Together, these two levels of connection represent your ‘sociogram’.
Where social network theory gets really interesting, though, is if you mapped not just your own, but all your friends social networks (and their friends as well) to indicate all the interrelated links. This map would reveal your ‘weak ties’ (people you know via other people). Ethan Watters describes the image well: “this diagram would look something like a picture of fireworks finale, when all the rockets explode at the same time.” p104 (Urban Tribes 2003). The theory goes that if you included everyone you know, and everyone these people know (for six levels) then every person on the planet would be in your map. Nifty, eh?
Now, ‘weak ties’ are important in all this because they are (not just people but) ‘social resources’ (sources of information, opportunities and potential mates) you can draw on via your social network – even though you may not know them personally. Sociologist Mark Granovetter argues that the number of weak ties in your network is critical to success in getting a job and finding a house to rent. You might use this network to find a good dentist (ie a friend of a friend knows an excellent one) or, as the 100 dates project implies, use your ‘weak ties’ to meet someone new.
Ethan Watters writes about all this much more eloquently than I in Urban Tribes – but if you are after the crunchy version, then do download and read Mark Granovetters 1973 article, “The Strength of Weak Ties”.