Social networking is the practice of expanding the number of one’s business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals, often through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
Based on the six degrees of separationconcept (the idea that any two people on the planet could make contact through a chain of no more than five intermediaries), social networking establishes interconnected online communities (sometimes known as social graphs) that help people make contacts that would be good for them to know, but that they would be unlikely to have met otherwise.
Depending on the social media platform, members may be able to contact any other member. In other cases, members can contact anyone they have a connection to, and subsequently anyone that contact has a connection to, and so on. Some services require members to have a preexisting connection to contact other members.
While social networking has gone on almost as long as societies themselves have existed, the unparalleled potential of the Web to facilitate such connections has led to an exponential and ongoing expansion of that phenomenon. In addition to social media platforms, the capacity for social interaction and collaboration is increasingly built into business applications.
A social network is a social structure made up of a set of social actors (such as individuals or organizations), sets of dyadic ties, and other social interactions between actors. The social network perspective provides a set of methods for analyzing the structure of whole social entities as well as a variety of theories explaining the patterns observed in these structures. The study of these structures uses social network analysis to identify local and global patterns, locate influential entities, and examine network dynamics.
Social networks and the analysis of them is an inherently interdisciplinary academic field which emerged from social psychology, sociology, statistics, and graph theory. Georg Simmel authored early structural theories in sociology emphasizing the dynamics of triads and “web of group affiliations”. Jacob Moreno is credited with developing the first sociograms in the 1930s to study interpersonal relationships. These approaches were mathematically formalized in the 1950s and theories and methods of social networks became pervasive in the social and behavioral sciences by the 1980s. Social network analysis is now one of the major paradigms in contemporary sociology, and is also employed in a number of other social and formal sciences. Together with other complex networks, it forms part of the nascent field of network science