La frase del día

viernes, 27 de febrero de 2009

The Economist: Primates on Facebook

Leo con atención este artículo en mi revista preferida, que sigo recibiendo como suscriptor (sí, de una revista en papel) todos los sábados en casa, en relación al fenómeno del agrupamiento en redes sociales. En primer lugar considera una "hipótesis obvia" que Facebook, Twitter y otras redes sociales incrementarán el tamaño de los grupos sociales humanos dado que "reducen mucho la fricción (tirantez) y el coste que implica estar en contacto real con la gente". Argumenta también que "en estas redes los amigos adicionales son gratis, entonces, ¿por qué no decir que cuantos más tengas puede ser más feliz? Pues no parece tan clara esta relación, según los expertos en primatología.

Nuestra limitación natural sobre redes sociales: 150 miembros

"But perhaps additional friends are not free. Primatologists call at least some of the things that happen on social networks “grooming”. In the wild, grooming is time-consuming and here computerisation certainly helps. But keeping track of who to groom—and why—demands quite a bit of mental computation. You need to remember who is allied with, hostile to, or lusts after whom, and act accordingly. Several years ago, therefore, Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist who now works at Oxford University, concluded that the cognitive power of the brain limits the size of the social network that an individual of any given species can develop. Extrapolating from the brain sizes and social networks of apes, Dr Dunbar suggested that the size of the human brain allows stable networks of about 148. Rounded to 150, this has become famous as “the Dunbar number".

A mayor interacción grupal, más pequeño y estable es el grupo

"The Economist asked Cameron Marlow, the “in-house sociologist” at Facebook, to crunch some numbers. Dr Marlow found that the average number of “friends” in a Facebook network is 120, consistent with Dr Dunbar’s hypothesis, and that women tend to have somewhat more than men. But the range is large, and some people have networks numbering more than 500, so the hypothesis cannot yet be regarded as proven.

What also struck Dr Marlow, however, was that the number of people on an individual’s friend list with whom he (or she) frequently interacts is remarkably small and stable. The more “active” or intimate the interaction, the smaller and more stable the group.

Thus an average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.

What mainly goes up, therefore, is not the core network but the number of casual contacts that people track more passively. This corroborates Dr Marsden’s ideas about core networks, since even those Facebook users with the most friends communicate only with a relatively small number of them."

La conclusión es demoledora: No somos tan sociales como se empeñan en vendernos

"...people who are members of online social networks are not so much “networking” as they are “broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren’t necessarily inside the Dunbar circle,” says Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a polling organisation. Humans may be advertising themselves more efficiently. But they still have the same small circles of intimacy as ever."