If you haven’t read this, you must do it now! As we start using social networks more and more as tools that help us discover new information, but we are also in danger of spending too much time with people who we already have a great deal in common with. Ever heard of homophily (i.e. love of the same)? If not, there’s a good chance that you’re in a social network where more of the same isn’t exactly sparking your neural pathways or making you smarter.
Homophily is the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others, which means that individuals with similar social status characteristics are more likely to associate with each other than by chance. By contrast, value homophily refers to a tendency to associate with others who think in similar ways, regardless of differences in status. – Wikipedia
“Homophily has a tendency to isolate us from certain pieces of information, at the same time it tends to fool us into believing that we have a complete picture of things when we don’t,” according to Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the co-founder of Global Voices Online, and who are also sits on the boards of the Kenyan-based Ushahidi, Ghana’s PenPlusBytes and the US programs board of the Open Society Institute.
… When you join Facebook the first thing it does is to try very hard to help you find as many of your friends as possible. One of the things that I am very worried about in the digital age is that it is easier and easier to put yourself in a situation where you can be surrounded by these like minded voices. It is not that people are bad, or lazy, or racist or classicist. It is just that there is a fundamental tendency for people to flock with very similar people.
At a time when the internet has made it possible for so many more people to have a voice and we need to be listening more widely to people who are speaking up, our filters may be making it easier for us only to listen to a few people. So we end up in a situation where we don’t have as broad a view of the world as we need, and we tend to think that our view is broader than it is …
The difference in the digital age is that your friends now govern, to a large degree, what you know, that potentially is very, very dangerous. And we are getting to the point where there’s evidence that there’s less and less of that shared knowledge, and a lot more information is coming through social networks and if we have social networks that do not interact with diversity, that’s where we start getting into real trouble.
People who end up being the most powerful and valuable are people who are capable of crossing between countries and cultures, and who say: ‘Well isn’t this interesting? Here’s something that works here, let’s see how it works in another place. Here’s a problem that suggests different types of solutions, so lets see what happens when we put a novel technology on it … Is Your Social Networking Making Your Stupid