The Psychology of Social Networking

Although “social networking” is now synonimous of Facebook and Twitter, it has a much wider meaning that includes – believe it or not – that very outdated form of relating to others, namely physical or real, as opposed to virtual or electronic, contact. But how are both related?

One intuitive hypothesis is that “popular” people (those with vast, far-reaching, and significant networks or contacts) will have connections both in the real as well as in the virtual world; thus the number of people one deals with in the real or physical world should be positively correlated with the number of virtual or electronic contacts one has.

On the other hand, a less intuitive (but still feasible) hypothesis may be that people who are less popular or charismatic in the real world may somehow “compensate” for their lack of charm by over-indulging in virtual social networking sites (and, unsurprisingly, spend more time in the virtual world than in the real world). Have you ever met someone with over 1,000 Facebook contacts? I have, and they seem quite different from someone who, despite not having a Facebook account or advertising their portfolio of friends, is socially very resourceful.