A network is a web of social relationships that links one person with other people and, through them, with other people they know. Frequently, networks connect people who share common interests but who otherwise might not identify and interact with one another. For example, if A is tied to B, and B is tied to C, then a network is more likely to be formed among individuals A, B, and C. If this seems a little confusing at first, let's assume that Alice knows of Dolores and Eduardo only through her good friends Bill and Carolyn. For almost a year, Alice has been trying (without success) to purchase a house she can afford. Because large numbers of people are moving into her community, the real estate market is "tight," and houses frequently sell before a "for sale" sign goes up in the yard. However, through her friends Bill and Carolyn, Alice learns that their friends-Dolores and Eduardo-are about to put their house up for sale. Bill and Carolyn call Dolores and Eduardo to set up all appointment for Alice to see the house before it goes on the real estate market. Thanks to Alice's network, she is able to purchase the house before other people learn that it is for sale. Although Alice had not previously met Dolores and Eduardo, they are part of her network through her friendship with Bill and Carolyn. Scarce resources (in this case, the number of affordable houses available) are unequally distributed, and people often must engage in collaboration and competition in their efforts \0 deal with this scarcity. Another example of the use of networks to help overcome scarce resources is recent college graduates who seek help from friends and acquaintances in order to find a good job.
What are your networks? For a start, your networks consist of all the people linked to you by primary ties, including your relatives and close friends. Your networks also include your secondary ties, such as acquaintances, 'classmates, professors, and-if you are employed-your supervisor and co-workers. However, your networks actually extend far beyond these
ties to include not only the people that you knOw. but also the people that you know of-and who know of you-through your primary and secondary ties. In fact, your networks potentially include a pool of between 500 and 2,500 acquaintanc ·S. if you count the connections of everyone in your networks (Milgram, 1967). Today, the term 1/etworking is widely used to describe the contacts that people make to find jobs or other opportunities; however, sociologists have studied social networks for many years in an effort to'Iearn more about the linkages between individuals and their group memberships.