Today, Grant McCracken has a great post entitled “The End of Accidental Networks.”
His premise is that in the “old days” we used to build our social networks accidentally. One example he explains might be:
“We grew up in Seattle, say, and as it happens we lived in a
neighborhood called Laurelhurst. This increased the chances that we
would go to Lakeside School, and this, in turn, is why we know Bill
Gates on a first
name basis, and this, in turn, is the reason we
retired from Microsoft some years ago to work on our golf
I think everyone has stories like that. Maybe not to the extent that they retired because of those “chance” meetings, but nonetheless, they have had those situations. Personally, some of my best friends happened by chance…we happened to be in the same place at the same time. Are we exactly the same, agree on everything? No, but we happened to be together in a place, had some similar beliefs/opinions/likes/dislikes and the rest is history.
The interesting point that Grant raises is that in the future, we can be much more selective about our “chance” meetings. With the rise of the Internet and social networking, we can now seek out people who share our outlooks far easier than ever before. As Grant puts it:
of the things that the internet extinguished was the need for
accidental sociality, for post-kinship
connections that depend on
spatial or institutional proximity. And if there is a mission for the
generation of the internet, Web 3.0, as it were, it is a
magnificent sorting of the world that identifies
people with whom we
are most likely to see eye to eye, meet idea with idea, draw innovation
creativity in a pell mell rush to revelation.”
I know that from my standpoint, I wouldn’t ever know about people like Mitch Joel, Joseph Jaffe or CC Chapman if these networks weren’t growing. I don’t want to hammer the “we’ve never met in person but it’s like we’ve known each other forever” drum, but I do know that I would never have heard about them if it weren’t for the Internet. But, the funny thing is that I didn’t just “happen” to meet/find out about them on the Internet. I went out looking for people with my similar interests and connected with them as a result.
I agree with Grant that in the future, we’ll build our networks far more selectively and effectively through the use of technology. I think it may even be more effective than other ways because you remove some of the potential for bias when you remove the ability to see the other person face to face.
Like everything else, you make your decision solely on content.
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