Seeking others…just like me.
Several studies have been done showing the importance of social connection as a child. They have shown that humans, among many other things, are made for friendship. Within the framework of human development, it would be beneficial for more studies to be done in reference to relationships. One study stated that friendship has an enduring effect an on individual over one’s lifetime. Studies have also shown that individual’s tend to stick by people that are like them. This phenomena of people flocking to like-minded individuals is called “homophily”.
Since the beginning of time humans have desired to be surrounded by others that are similar to themselves. Individual’s who think, act, speak, look, etc. like they do. Communities and even nations have been created based on this idea alone. With the rise of social media it has given people even more of an opportunity to seek out others that are like minded. With these groups growing across social media platforms it gives them the access to share their ideas and learn new things from others around the world. With social media platforms seeking to make the idea of homophily easier they create the option to create groups that you can add anyone to and typically the ones that stick around will have a similar look on life.
Lets take a step back to the word I have mentioned about: homophily. Lets do a quick exercise. I want you to think about your current best friend. What is it about them that you enjoy the most? How did the relationship start? Was it over a cut of coffee or meeting at a library where you or they asked the opening question. With the goal to see if this person could be someone that could potentially be a friend. But that is not what created the lasting relationship. It was the continued conversation where you started to learn each other. Learning their interests and what they are passionate about. Thats what keeps a person around and typically it is an individual with similar passions to you! That is what keeps a friend around in the long term.
Now, what does social media do to exploite these bonds to use them in their algorithm? The most notiable for me and my experience is the “people you may know” recommendations. The recommendations are build off of my friends, people who live near me, with the goal that you will view their page and see that you are similar and ultimately add them as a friend. Their goal to continue to connect and engage people all over the world.
Bukowski, W. B., & Sippola, L. K. (2005). Friendship and Development: Putting the Most Human Relationship in Its Place. New Directions For Child & Adolescent Development, 2005(109), 91–98.
Zhao, J., Liang, X., & Xu, K. (2015). Competition between Homophily and Information Entropy Maximization in Social Networks. Plos ONE, 10(9), 1–12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136896