Social network and their influence on behaviour

Now that you start reading this post on my personal blog, you can ask yourself what moves you to go over this lecture. Here, there are some examples of open questions:

-Am I interested on what I will read?

– Am I just curious on what this person think interesting to share?

– Am I in search of errors and misunderstandings of posts present in net platforms?

– Have I really enough time to even finish to read these ideas, that – well enough – can be partial and will give me only a tiny piece of knowledge/ suggestions respect of the huge amount of the “cake” of information accessible online/offline.

And you can go on reflecting on the deeper meaning of why are you doing so, even if the truth is that there is not a specific reason and what you are thinking is just an implicit recollection of thoughts.

There are weeks, already, that imprison my curiosity on something that surround us and lead ourselves to a specific way of acting, and participate in common actions/ events/ political ideas/ trends of the moment where we live.

Yes, probably you understand what is the topic of my post: social network and their influence on behaviour. When and how do we act as spectators, interpreters or knowers of the huge amount of flooding information present online? At which conditions these attitudes shape their profound uniqueness?

Well, let’s start from the relationship between social media and contemporary collective action.

Everyone use daily delivered news data, social media and Internet-based platforms to allow himself/herself to join the knowledge of something relevant in a specific moment. The form of information can have many forms: blogs, micro-blogs, social networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, etc), content sharing sites (such as Youtube and Flickr), social bookmarking sites (such as Digg and Delicious), virtual worlds (think on the time people spend on ‘Second Life’ disregarding their real one…).

Despite of the platform or networking site chosen, we are (consciously or not) attracted by one main thing present in the net: collective action and involvement in a specific argument. Yes, we want to feel involved, and we claim to see and think on different opinions, operative ideas, decision (small or bigger ones), collective actions related to a content or a news we define meaningful.

What is the specific motivation that let us contribute (even with our passive reading) and understand what is going on out there in the world, despite of our private and limited life?

Why some of us are so interested in collective actions that are though connected to public goods such as sustainable environments; basic rights; democratic form of societies vs obsolete regimes that spread their dictatorial power in middle east’s countries; participating events on some main causes that can differentiate us as human beings. And why some are totally numb on that issues?


In the age of social media and digital environments we can get to know – very accurately – in “real time” what other people are doing for public meaning or even just for private reasons. This opportunity includes, as well, political ideas and its trends: in digital environments we can get to know accurately and in real time what other people are doing politically. Following such kind of strategical operation, that led to providing real-time information about what other people are doing, social media affect the perceived viability of political mobilization and hence the potential benefits to joining, or thereby altering the incentives that allow individuals to participate in something that they define relevant, meaningful and trustful for them/ the group they belong to. Somehow this specific form of online social information has the huge potential to activate people’s social norms, valid only in this interactive context when is possible to have an exact knowledge on the amount of people involved in the topic you are just facing in this particular moment.

In the meanwhile, thanks to multiple tools is possible to maintain your identity completely anonymous. And despite a personal desire or conviction, think on how this opportunity was important for people who are subject to dictatorial and censorship regimes. Just to give a quick example on this phenomenon, in the protests that swept Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 (the so called Arab Spring), the principle of anonymity was crucial to the participation of many. Such as during early massive demonstrations that allow a crucial conduit of social information to other people. The principle that I wish to underpin here is very basic to understand and easy to reconnect in our online experience: some platforms engender the creation of network structures, provide distinct types of social information and allow or not the use of feedbacks by different levels of visibility and anonymity. In doing so they exert varying forms of social influence on their users, making them more or less conductive to political participation.

The links across platforms create ‘networks of networks’ allowing information relating to one topic, query or mobilization’ venture to travel across platforms following a basic principle: one platform can influence the dissemination and collective action on another one. Internet itself, by this evaluation, can be used for experiment on how social collective actions are shaped in terms of network structures and mobilization curves. In such way of acting the canonical distinction between laboratory and field is much more blurred. Think on how network analysts use experiments to understand the spread of collective activity through online social networks. However we cannot have a lens on how those groups, taken as single individuals behave in their life starting from their proper disponition, and individual behaviour or age. Computational social science approaches can give us and understanding of the shape of collective action in terms of the network structure or mobilization curves, but digital generated data of this kind do not come with demographics attached.

This statement is linked on the assumption that most contemporary collective action has an online genesis and some action take place entirely online. Most form of collective action are moving in this direction.

Social media can give a new light to existing values and behaviours that for different types of reasons (lack of time, knowledge, self-assessment, personal development willingness) need to be favourite and coordinate more efficiently to achieve collective goals. There is a deliberate process of take part and understand the information and big data flows that are going on in front of our eyes; facing our laptop windows that open us a continuos way to choose critically what we are or wish to become, starting by what we read and the material we will probably share on the forthcoming future.

Moreover, saw as single individuals we give a contribution to the social online “ocean” by small amounts of time, effort and money, but together we are a crowd. A very powerful one.

And we are in search of collective action, because this is how we act and behave as humans. We are by nature social animals with sophysticated minds that need to be part of something bigger than their individual reality, in order to deeper understand what they want, on what they believe and where they want to go.

Every moment can be the right time to move forward, in respect of the past that seldom show itself in its positive/negative ways, starting by society meanings and cultural awareness. Think about it.



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