Week 6: Jamie Schwarz

The Katz reading highlighted a number of concepts that have been covered throughout comm courses I have taken in the past. The conclusion started with the sentence, “Opinion leaders and the people whom they influence are very much alike and typically belong to the same primary groups of family, friends and co-workers.” This basically means that they found that people are influenced by figures of power because they subscribe to figures who have beliefs that align with their own. Before social networks were ever created online, they existed amongst people and they have been a powerful way to spread a message for centuries. The interpersonal communication that takes place is limitless because their is a constant flow of ideas. Facebook took this interpersonal communication and formed it in to concrete networks online. “Thus, interpersonal relations are (1) channels of information, (2) sources of social pressure, and (3) sources of social support, and each relates interpersonal relations to decision-making in a somewhat different way.” You can easily find those three things evident in a person’s facebook account.

Shifting gears back a couple of years, Standage talks about the telegraph and how it’s creating changed the way that news could be spread. Instead of relying on small local newspapers that lacked variety and ability to cover stories outside of their normal realm, people could suddenly learn current news from around the world. Newspapers embraced this change and saw it as an opportunity to widen their social network. But when the American social network began to be intercepted by our enemies during wartime, journalists and people within national security realized the importance of a closed network. People began to decrease their support for the telegraph because some just believed that ignorance was bliss and it was causing more problems than it was solving.

The synthesized argument that can be made is that social networks are important and inevitable characteristics of society whether we believe to be a part of one or not. The people who we talk to or the prominent figures that we follow feed a message similar to the one delivered by the telegraph in that it reaches a broad range of people who are relying on the same source. The telegraph appeared to eliminate small and unreliable social networks but instead it created a large one with many holes.

My question this week is do we choose to be a part of our “social network” or is it chosen for us simply by the people who we talk to and the news that we choose to rely on? Also, is it possible to completely change your network and abandon one that you had once been a part of?


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