When man first appeared on earth, one of the first things he did was to network. The earliest men networked and bonded into tribes to their mutual benefit and the security it offered them. As civilization developed and became more complex, so did the complexity of these networks and soon there were specialized fraternities, guilds and associations of people with common interests and aims. This evolved until, by the late 20th century, networking for social and business reasons became an established part of life.
The definition of social networking and the way it is done took on a new shape with the advent of the internet. Today we think of social networking as a positive and necessary activity needed to develop and expand our lives, both personally and on a business level.
The internet meant that we did not have to be able to physically meet a person to establish contact with them or to continue the relationship – everything can be done online and relationships can develop and flourish there. Social networking sites today permit people to search for and link up with others who have the same interests and goals without ever leaving their homes.
The ease with which millions of people all over the world can be accessed has brought the theory of Six Degrees of Separation into prominence. The theory says that with an almost unlimited number of people who can be contacted, just contacting one person who can put you in touch with another should be able to lead you to anyone, anywhere within six stages.
This new definition of social networking moves the concept from establishing a circle of like minded people to being able to contact any person in the world – at least in theory. However, for most people the practical definition of social networking is something more limited.
The common use of social networks is to help people make contacts with others whose friendship is beneficial to them but whom they would not be able to meet, except online. A person who becomes a member of a social network will, in most cases, ask his or her friends to also join the network. Those friends, after joining, will repeat the same process with their other friends until a linked group of people who would not have known each other in any other way is formed – a group that will continue to grow in an organic manner. In other words, the definition of a social network today is that of a set of people with linked interests and objectives who may not necessarily ever meet in person, but are able to work together and help each other in achieving their individual and group goals.