Network Trauma with New Fauna

I’m sure that over the next few months, people are going to start getting tired of me talking about Australia. Sure, we’re moving there for a year. Sure, it’s going to be some kind of life-changing event. But who will think about the poor networks? The poor, poor networks.

On the one hand, with the ability to stay connected through Social Media, blogging, emails, and Skype, the potential damage is mitigated to some degree. It certainly won’t be like it was the first time I did something like this in 1994. I recall receiving about five letters from friends back in Canada during that whole year and phone calls were out of the question (my friends and I were 15 at the time, we didn’t interact in a meaningful manner (Corner Gas reference)). Now, I’m sure, there are people that I’ll be able to continue “talking” with on a day-to-day basis. For some people the routine won’t even really be that different than it is now, since we’ll be using the exact same tools. The only difference being the influence of time zones.

However, it does raise the question that, despite these modern conveniences, there may well be some damage done to the networks that I am a part of. First and foremost, to the relationships I have with the people that I do see, face-to-face every day. This will probably be mostly felt in my office, which really is a second-home. Despite the fact that I will most likely be in touch on a regular basis, and the fact that much of our interaction occurs by email or instant message, there will still be that missing propinquity (my new favourite word from Kadushin). We will no longer share the location-based awareness that is required for this type of connection.

For my part, this process will certainly remove many of the support networks that allow me to feel comfortable and safe. Even Kadushin agrees that “The apparently neat distinction between feeling safe and reaching out becomes muddled in modern society” (p. 58). Although that feeling of safety from the traditional networks is no longer there, there will certainly be a greater impetus to create new networks to provide that foundation. Perhaps this will propel me toward being a bit more outgoing, which doesn’t hurt in any regard. The overlay of new networks on top of the old will lead to additional changes. I think that the best scenario is one in which I am able to maintain my old networks, develop new networks and become one of those bridging connections I’ve been hearing so much about (p. 103).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Here’s the fauna who I will be working on incorporating into my new networks:

Anthony Cramp: Red Kangaroo

Anthony Cramp: Red Kangaroo (Flickr CC):


Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks : Theories, concepts, and findings. New York: Oxford University Press


14 responses to “Network Trauma with New Fauna

  1. You make a real-life connection on “feeling safe.” In a workplace process and status quo keep people safe until disruption arrives, and then the people who are in those positions then are the most unsafe. Think about that for a second?
    Improvement and challenging status quo can be met with resistance, especially when the motive is unknown (critical thinking). In a culture where improvement and altruistic improvement to better society, company or org is discouraged (by accident or not) the critical thinking skills of people seem to deteriorate. I still have hope, however, those who reach out and take a chance will in the end be better off than those who lay muddled in mediocrity for the sake of process.

    • Thanks! I completely agree that feeling “safe” can be a dangerous thing and that, in some instances, that is exactly where you don’t want to be. The safety of a process is okay as long as the process is evolving to fit the current circumstances.

  2. Sean, it sounds like you are planning on doing a little network brokering. Ronald S. Burt* indicates that, “network brokerage is about building connections across structural holes and taking advantage of a person’s exposure to variations in opinion and behavior.” However Burt reports some pretty anti-intuitive data on what happens to adjacent networks.
    He calls what you are suggesting ‘network as glasses’ because you are wanting to use the network you would be bridging into to improve your vision.
    Sorry to report but according to Burt this is NOT born out in the research. The way you will likely benefit from constructing a whole new cluster to your network is not to put you in the know by exposing you to more information but rather to counteract the effects of homophily. “The way networks have their effect is not by getting information from people, but rather by finding people who are interesting and who think differently from you,” says Burt.
    According to Burt the key gift, “is not being in the know, but rather having to translate between different groups so that you develop gifts of analogy, metaphor, and communicating” Whoah Sean you are going to be even MORE amazing than you already are!! Nice.
    BTW A number of people in my PLN are in Oz (Sydney mostly but maybe you can connect with some of them . . . . they do meet ups from time to time!)
    *Burt, Ronald S.(2009) Neighbor Networks: Competitive Advantage Local and Personal.
    Oxford University Press.

    • Thanks for your insights Maureen. I completely agree that ones intended outcomes and what actually happens are rarely the same. To the extent that I’m “planning” anything, it has more to do with trying to open myself to new experiences and points of view – especially the ones that I have absolutely no idea about now. So planning on those grounds flies out the window. How do you plan for what you don’t know?

  3. I have a friend who is technically, according to network theory, a bridge. She has over 1000 Facebook friends. She has the slickest social skills I’ve ever seen. She’s a natural, and uses these bridges to some extent, but many of them have just sort of fallen at her feet. You, meanwhile, have the intention of creating bridges. I don’t know the theory on this, but it seems to me that calculated use of social network theory could be far more beneficial than just Facebook friending every person you meet. As Kadushin points out, once you move straight to effectance, you become a player, not a node. :Be self-aware, and be effective!

    • I completely agree that random friending does not equal effective communicating nor networking. Self-awareness seems to be one way to begin analyzing a personal network strategy. I think that often those who are stuck in cliques lack he ability to see outside at what they’re missing. Likewise someone with a thousand followers, to borrow a phrase, may have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. We’ve seen the difficulty of celebrities in forming real-world connections since they cannot possibly communicate with all of their followers in a meaningful way. I suppose how you measure success depends very much on what goals you have in your communication/networking strategy.

  4. refletch makes a great point, that measuring success is closely linked to our goals and strategy. We can only measure our success if we have a clear idea of where we’re going in the first place. Seems to me that sometimes organizations stay muddled in mediocrity because of a lack of leadership and inability to define meaning behind goals.

    • Krista, the idea of “success” in SM is one that continually baffles me. We hear a lot about what success should be: number and quality of followers, retweets and klout score, for example. I wonder how we will measure success in the next 10 years, once the dust has settled?

  5. I recently went through a similar life event where I had to leave my family, friends and co-workers due to the move to Edmonton. I thought it will be hard, but I proved myself wrong. With the technology I am able to keep in touch with many of them and see what are their updates. The time difference is couple hours but I don’t feel it because I tend to check my social media every few hours already, so there is a time lag. So I am suggesting not to worry, because you will be amazed how easy it would be to keep in touch with everybody!

    • Yulia, I think you’re probably right. There are certainly many more ways to keep in touch than there ever have before. Also, considering that the folks who I interact with most (our cohort) are all online regularly, means that I probably won’t see too much of a difference, in terms of who I connect with. It’s going to be interesting being in Tanya’s shoes in terms of the time change!

  6. The poor, poor networks indeed! What will become of them when you go off and live upside down for a year? A few people have mentioned connections in OZ – I also have some…more on the theatre/artsy side, but hey, that could be fun. Let me know if you’d like some names.
    Oddly, I am thinking of Latour. Though how he described networks didn’t exactly work for me, one idea came back to me when I read your post and the comments. In a non-Latour world, I see social networks as having more defined edges. Yes, they are malleable and can change, but there is a sense of what’s “in” and what’s “out”. For Latour, it seemed as if everything could be considered part of a network…all things connected in some way if we remove the troublesome hard-to-define “social” part of our attempt at categorization.
    Perhaps if you Latouricized your view on networks it may seem different? Some parts of your network may change, but if you put your Latour glasses on it doesn’t seem as dramatic to me this way. Something in your world is changing, so it’s time to reevaluate the network anyway.
    Would that make it seem less troublesome? You’re not really losing anything – just realigning.

    • Hi Cat! Yes, this is a great way of thinking about things. On the other hand, moving could also be seen as a chance to disconnect. I certainly have moved away from places with this exact motivation in the past – not that I think that I’m still in that headspace. Your comments about Latour really resonate.

      Also, happy to know who is around down there. Might as well start networking now!

  7. Pingback: Go, Network! | ForcedReadingForMyCohorts

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