CHAPTER 2Networks: The How of Social Media

Social networks are one of the most important, if not the defining feature, of many social media services. It is hard to imagine any Web-scale service nowadays without a feature that enables users to connect with other users or groups of users, based on shared interests, real-world friendships, or organizational hierarchy. Networks enable users to stay up-to-date on the activities of other users and see what content they change, share, and contribute to. In general, we can consider social networks as a strong filter that only lets events generated by users reach other users who are interested in them. This is obvious in social networks modeled after actual friendships or relationships: The online social network is an extension of and reflects the real-world connections that users have, therefore enabling easier communication and sharing. In this sense, users don't think of the online social network very differently than they would think of their existing social connections. The online network is the same as the network they would otherwise have through face-to-face, telephone, email, chat, or letter conversations and interactions. However, social networks are also used by many services to enable users to connect to other individuals based on shared personal or professional interests, as a way for the users to keep track of others’ activities or, again, to make communication between them easier. In contrast to social networks that ...

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