How social ties make us resilient to trauma

people and social ties

This article was originally published on The Conversation, By Dr Daniel P Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director, Security and Resilience Program, Northeastern University.

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Manchester, England, May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead.
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Daniel P. Aldrich, Northeastern University

The May 22 suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, England has claimed at least 22 lives. Once again we find ourselves mourning the loss of innocents and wondering how our societies can find normalcy in a world of suicide attacks, car rammings and mass shootings. Many pundits have already called for the United Kingdom and other societies to increase their levels of security, add more police officers and install security personnel, bag checks and metal detectors in public places.

Hardening our society is one way to make us more resilient to hazards – that is, to allow us to bounce back from adversity more quickly. But we cannot armor our societies against all threats.

Millions of people in cities like Boston, Mumbai, Ghana, Tel Aviv and Tokyo use public transportation systems, attend concerts, go to parks, visit malls and walk in public daily. All of these locations are vulnerable to those who would do us harm, and we cannot police them all. Further, protecting against one type of physical threat, such as an active shooter, does little to shield society against other types of dangers, such as vehicular attacks.

My research on the role of social networks during and after crises provides an alternative approach. Rather than focusing on hardening our physical infrastructure, our societies become more resilient when we deepen and broaden our social infrastructure. Social ties provide emotional support, information and collective action at critical times.

A fan is comforted as she leaves the Park Inn hotel in central Manchester, England, Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
AP Photo/Rui Vieira

We’re here for you

During and after traumatic events, we need other people. Social ties measurably lessen the effects of trauma and allow us to grieve, work through our adversity, and create and offer support.

For example, our ongoing research on evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear power meltdowns has shown that factors such as health and wealth did little to ease survivors’ anxiety over radiation exposure and worries about their livelihoods. Instead, having neighbors and friends who moved along with evacuees as they fled from their homes was the most powerful predictor of reducing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among residents.

Social ties – especially those mediated through social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and NextDoor – provide information and platforms to connect acts of kindness and solidarity to people in need. Facebook’s Safety Check feature, for instance, allows users to check in and announce they are safe following a natural disaster or terror attack.

In Manchester, residents offered rides, food, water and shelter to all, using social media tags like #roomforManchester. Taxi drivers took people home from the concert arena without charge. Similarly, after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016, locals offered shelter to stranded survivors with the hashtag #PorteOuverte (open door).

During the agonizing period when parents and spouses were waiting to hear news of loved ones at the concert, the social media tag #missinginManchester helped them seek information. But not all shows of support involved social media. Blood banks around Manchester received so many donations that they started turning people away less than 24 hours after the bombing.

These emergent collective actions were not coordinated by governmental authorities, but instead evolved from feelings of connection and decency. Sometimes they can even inject some humor into grim events. During a four-day lockdown in Brussels in November 2015 while police searched for one of the Paris attackers, residents started tweeting pictures of cats in battle gear.

Strength in numbers

Scholars studying societies that regularly face terror attacks from rockets, shootings and knifings have similarly argued for the importance of social ties in building resilience. One study of Israel illuminated how community ties may be the most powerful way to help people deal with the reality of life as targets.

The ConversationManchester itself has faced bombings before. It was attacked multiple times during World War II, and in 1996 an Irish Republican Army bomb destroyed the downtown shopping district, injuring more than 200 people. Thanks to strong connections and community resilience, the city bounced back from past tragedies. As we struggle to find words to express our shock and sympathy for those who were harmed, we should not forget the healing power of building connections to each other.

Daniel P. Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director, Security and Resilience Program, Northeastern University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Social network analysis on informal networks: ‘Who we know’ has a say on ‘What we know’

Informal networks
In some way or the other, we all are part of some informal networks in the organizations where we work. Through these networks, most of us if not some of us, get vital information to get our jobs done. Our collaboration with others becomes much easier when we know who would be right person to deliver the goods on time. Image credit: Pixabay

Note: The words ‘Workplaces’ and “Organizations’ have been used interchangeably within this post and they both mean the same.

Rob cross et all, in their seminal article titled “Making invisible work visible’ talk about the effects of social network analysis on informal networks in organizations. Even though the article was written in 2002, it offers much insight into the analysis of informal working relationships in workplaces and is quite relevant even now. Their analysis and research findings were implemented into many excellent companies across the globe. I have tried to crystallize and infer as much as possible from the first few pages. You can find the article here. Later on in the upcoming posts, I will try to summarize the lessons learned.

Social network analysis on informal networks within organizations has revealed that most of the innovative work happens across cross-functional units that cut across detailed work processes.

Such informal networks are usually not found in formal organizational charts. They are invisible and work in myriad different ways with all the subtleties and nuances embedded in it.

People with similar backgrounds, expertise, and job positions gather to share and grow together. No body forces them to form a group there by forming social capital. They are a high concoction of talent, expertise, and influential information brokers.

Workplaces need to recognize the importance of such informal networks, which can develop the ability to innovate and adapt.

It is a known fact that such informal networks in workplaces often compete with formal structures and work processes. Established HR practices, culture, and leadership styles hardly recognize the existence of such networks. Yet, we know to the core that people often depend upon informal relationships to find information they want.  Social science researchers across the world have consistently pointed out that ‘who we know, has a great say and impact on what and how much we know’.

The understanding is that if we put an organizational chart, the lines and boxes hardly represent the relationships that exist within the workplaces. Informal relationships exist beyond those lines and boxes for carrying out work and are always growing and often not immediately seen.

Informal relationships are compounded when organizations become more flat (typically, the direct reports span for manager increases or when there is widespread retrenchment) and when there is increased virtual remote working across the globe. However, the managers seem to have a good understanding of the immediate social links their direct reports have but they are largely unaware of the social links and connections, employees have across the gamut of the organization.

Now having said that, social network analysis can play a significant role in mapping and assessing key relationships among group members in informal networks as well as making productive interventions in the best interest of the organization as a whole.

There were simultaneous studies on Social network analysis from researchers across different disciplines. From the field of Social Psychology was JL Moreno who was credited with creating the first social network after mapping the city of New York. He created the first Sociogram (A network diagram, depicting relationships among group members).

Cultural anthropology, another discipline developed independent studies on informal networks. Then there was ‘graph theory’ from the field of Mathematics, which provided the foundations for the analytical techniques in social network analysis.

Over the years, all these research studies culminated today to study the effects of informal networks in modern work places through social network analysis.

All this valuable research into social network analysis provided significant inputs for investigating and understanding the conditions necessary for the rise of informal networks in organizations.

Have you read ?

1. What small world village clusters can teach us on social networks
2.  The human brain helps us make decisions in everyday life social networks
3.  How social networks can add value to innovation in workplaces

Informal networks in organizations are quite common among people who are from similar background and job profile. Firstly, it emphasizes the fact that informal networks thrive from a cognitive standpoint where in employees with similar abilities and job positions communicate more.

Secondly, from a structural standpoint, the organizations design and structure has an impact on the influence and the density of the connections within informal networks. There is every likelihood that informal networks are less dense in formal structures.

Lastly, from a relational standpoint, it emphasizes that trust; motivation and reciprocity are the other important factors, which influence informal networks within workplaces.

Some insight into social network analysis for informal networks

An interesting point which I would like to make is that so far social network analysis has been viewed from a researcher’s point of view and the outcomes of such research and the benefits where never been within the reach of practitioners belonging to the industry. The outcomes and the insight derived out of such analysis need to be accessible for people in workplaces. Moreover, addressing challenges in context can help working relationships. The current conditions and challenges of working relationships in modern workplaces need to assessed and understood in the first place.

Such contextualized approach can give practitioners insight into ‘what is working and not working’ when analyzing the patterns of relationships and make changes and corrections accordingly.

For example, relocating people who are central to the informal networks with respect to decision-making and information control, to other parts of the network can have a positive effect to the group as a whole. This can boost the morale of the employees as well.

Similarly, people who are in the far reaches of the informal networks can be re-assigned so that their expertise and talent does not go underutilized. Their expertise can be leveraged by bringing them closer to the network members.

Finally, analyzing the gaps at the junctures of two independent informal networks can help in understanding what is missing or not working. By making suitable interventions and infusing new talent in those gaps or through introduction of knowledge brokers, disparate groups can be integrated. Such integration can facilitate free flow of information, expertise and know how across the groups in workplaces.




Social network analysis: The rationale behind

Social network analysis
Social networks have existed for a very long time ever since the evolution of human society.  As we dwell into details, social network analysis provides us an understanding of, among many – why people are connected more closely together then before and when there is no logic. Such analysis can make organisations flourish in a modern information economy.  Image credit: Pixabay.

Social relationships are complex. They say. Understanding such complexity requires conceptual tools when you are trying to understand the relationships beyond a small number of people.

Networks can be used to represent social relationships.

A network is simply a graph or a structure, which represents people interacting with each other. Social network analysis examines the relationships among individuals, organizations and other groups as they interact and mingle with each other. The groups’ members and their relationships can be represented in a data set, which can be created exclusively for this purpose.

Social network analysis allows scholars and industry practitioners to study and understand the behavior of network members and their relationships.

Social network analysis asks questions such as ‘who is linked to whom’ and the content of the linkages. It also looks at relationship patterns among the network members based on their behavior.

Understanding these patterns is crucial in understanding the flow of the contagion (which could be information, diseases, love, goods, etc.).

By analyzing social networks, we can understand and measure a community’s social cohesion. Things like why people engage in communities, maintain active or passive social relations, and yet live at arm’s length like in a market or business perspective.

Social network analysis also allows us to understand, how people in a community can broker information to achieve power and status and yet collaborate with others to achieve shared goals. It is a known fact that new communities emerge at the intersections of sub cultures or communities where information brokers reside.

That way, social networks have existed since ancient days and have evolved since then. Modern social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn have generated massive online networks. The ease of use coupled with their widespread availability has raised the need for social network analysis and has greatly expanded its reach and potential in the last few years.

Social network analysis is usually studied through various visualization tools. Gephi is a popular open source software tool for social network analysis. Social network analysis finds its applications in a wide variety of fields from studying food chains in ecosystems, to understanding network traffic and connections for building new tools.Further online social networks use social network analysis to develop and create new proprietary software algorithms for new connection recommendations and targeting niche advertisements.

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Social network of the gods – A primordial soup of carbon atoms and water

Conceptualizing social network relationships

Social networks exist at all levels and in great variety. For example, there are social relations among friends and relatives. These are mostly among equals and then there are employer relationships i.e. between a boss and a subordinate. Further, there is also love and trust among life partners and of course infrequent interactions among people who trade and do business.

Network relationships vary according to certain factors and they are 1. Emotional intensity 2. Trust 3. Time spent. 4. Reciprocity


To be continued…


Simple internet publishing tips using social media

Social networks
Guest author Jessica writes about social media tips for internet publishing from creating a sitemap for your site to analyzing Facebook pages. Her post is below. Picture credit: Pixabay

Social media marketing is now deemed important for businesses. After all, not only does it boost brand recognition, but it also improves brand loyalty, and with the use of the right tools, success would surely be yours. So, here are 15 compulsive social media tool and technology tips that we have for you!

1. Don’t forget to create a sitemap

Having a sitemap is essential as it allows Google to have an idea of what kind of content your site has. Also, in case you have also uploaded videos on YouTube, Google would also be indexing those on your site as well.  A sitemap is the one that makes your site easier to navigate not only for your site’s visitors but for search engines too.

2. Make use of the Google Advanced Search

Using the Google Advanced Search will allow you to save a lot of time when it comes to searching for specific topics as it gets rid of unwanted results and websites. In other words, it helps you narrow down your search and exclude words that are not relevant to what you are searching for.

3. Use Google Analytics to monitor traffic

Social media marketing does not end with you creating fresh content and finally publishing them online, but you should also monitor how much traffic your content is getting by using the Google Analytics. This tool will also allow you to know the source of the traffic.

4. Use lucky orange in monitoring the activity of your visitors

You need to know your visitors better in order for you to be able to create contents that will cater to all of their needs and meet their preferences. With this tool, you can interact in real time with your visitors. You can also know how long they have been staying on your site and the kind of pages that they have visited.

5. Use Glyder to share some updates

Most people are accessing social media platforms using their mobile devices. So, you need to make sure that you reach out to mobile users as well when you engage in social media marketing, and you can do that through Glyder. This is a tool that will allow you to provide status updates. You can even use the graphical templates available there.

6. Include links containing keywords on your profile

If ever you have plans to post as a guest on the other blogs online, then make sure to include links that contain the keywords that you want to rank in your profile. After all, they would most likely just be copying what you have sent whenever you post as a guest.

7. Minimize the size of your images with

There are a lot of things that can affect your ranking on search engines and one of them is the loading time of your pages. So, as much as possible, minimize the size of your images with while still retaining the quality of your images. This is sure to provide you positive results from your social media marketing efforts.

8. Find the most shared content through Buzzsumo

In order for you to be able to create content that would likely be shared by your target audience, you need to know what kind of content they are interested in first. You can use Buzzsumo to find out the answer. With that, you can start creating content that tackles similar topics that are most likely to perform well.

9. Analyze your blog’s SEO with Screaming Frog

This tool analyzes all of your site’s pages, and it will provide you an idea of what areas you need to improve further before you create a new content by fetching data on your site. Hence, it can help you boost your SEO ranking.

10. Use Heyo to build your email subscribers

Oftentimes, to gain attention on social media, businesses offer special deals. However, as the main goal of your social media marketing campaign is to gain attention, you need to promote it more. Guess what, Heyo allows you to convert your fans on FB to be your email subscribers.

11. Use Hootsuite to schedule your posts

So, you have created several great posts but instead of posting them all at the same time, you should schedule the delivery of your posts with HootSuite. That way, your target audience would see something new whenever they visit your blog. Also, not only will it allow you to save some time, but it also ensures that more people would be able to see your posts.

12. Optimize your previous posts in SEO

In social media marketing, it is essential for you to ensure that all of your posts are SEO optimized. So, revisit your old post, regardless of whether it has already been weeks or months since they have been posted online. If possible, link your posts with one another. Make sure to use the keyword in your titles and descriptions.

13. Use LikeAlyzer to analyze your Facebook page

Although the Facebook insights are already there for you to use, LikeAlyzer is definitely much simpler to use. It can provide you recommendations on how you can improve your Facebook page, as well as how you can boost the engagement between you and your audience on the said platform.

14. Manage your blogs with ManageWp

Although there are people who are into social media marketing that only has a single blog to manage, there are also some who have created multiple blogs. Well, managing several blogs all at the same time has been made easy by ManageWp.

15. Track your mentions with Mention

Do you want to know the number of times that your brand has been mentioned on social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter? If so, then the tool Mention is what you need. What’s even great is that you can use it for free.

So, there you have 15 compulsive social media tool and technology tips. Hopefully, you can use them on your future social media marketing campaign.

How social networks can add value to innovation in workplaces

flow through innovation in workplaces
Ideas and information flow through social relationships. We need to be open enough to grab them. When you think of innovation as a flexible process, it is more likely to succeed than purely as an investment vehicle for returns. The above is an adapted figure. I used Artflow to sketch it. It is open for interpretation.

Social relationships whether we know it or not can get us access to information and resources. In addition, of course, influence as well. The degree and extent of our relationships with people determine how innovations surface from the dark and how rapidly they can be diffused among network members.

Social relationships within networks play a huge role particularly during the early stages of innovation process and the kind of relationships and the structure of the networks in terms of how dense they are further promotes innovation.

“The influence of social relationships on innovation stems particularly from two obvious reasons” says Olav Sorenson from the Yale school of management in his working paper on “Role of social networks in innovation’ published in NBER (National bureau of economic research).

The first one is that innovation process requires inputs, sharing of expertise and contribution from multiple people. Moreover, such information and people are distributed across the world. Rarely can we say that innovation or the outcome of innovation results from one single individual working all alone.

Secondly, there is no guarantee that new ideas will succeed. It is unpredictable and we need to accept that there is a great degree of uncertainty. It is difficult for investors and entrepreneurs to predict the outcome of their investment choices.

In such situations, they rely on their instincts as well as the trust they place another person in the social network for them to confide, discuss and take another course of action. They rarely rely on rational or logical calculations.

In effect, it is to say that the strength of social relationships can influence the success or failure of innovation. There needs to be a shift from thinking innovation as purely an investment vehicle for returns to a more process oriented approach, which can be potentially, be shaped, and molded as we move along a more flexible process.

Measuring the quality and pattern of relationships within a social network has always been a challenge. Understanding the depth of relationships that people have within social networks has been difficult as it relies on the responses of the network members themselves. Capturing such responses from network members is expensive, more over the ‘give and take’ in a relationship is captured at a snapshot in time, and this may not be accurate.

Owing to this fact, research and practice of analyzing social networks for innovation has gone from the quality of relationships vis-à-vis the acquaintances of people, the information exchanges to the number and type of connections people have.

More so, this is increasingly seen on measures based on the number of transactions done or contracts signed between the two collaborating parties. This is quite evident in the co-authorship and co-patents that people produce when they work together.

Even the measures on the quality of relationships are highly subjective. An enthusiastic and a creative person may reach out more and connect with others.

The geographical distances in a network also have an effect. People feel more comfortable in talking to a person within the same city where they live than to a person who is half way across the world. Therefore, the measures on the subjective relationships within a network may not be consistent and do not yield value.

Olav Sorenson further elaborates in his working paper that there are three main channels through which social networks can influence innovation.  Social networks that influence innovation in workplaces can be measured through what flows within the relationship. In this aspect, it is the information that flows through the social relationships.

Similarly, there is also the degree of influence that people have in the network and the social capital that bonds people together to achieve great tasks. All these can influence innovation and its diffusion. Lastly, there is also the access to resources where one party may not have access to resources and the other party can fill that gap. Let us look into these three channels of social network influence on innovation in workplaces.

Have you read?

Flow of knowledge and information

Much of the information we have access to have the tendency to remain private within a tight group of few people. This can also be tacit knowledge in the minds of seniors and people who have spent years working and have gained invaluable critical knowledge. Social relationships help in gaining access to private information – only a few know.

One method of eliciting such knowledge, that organizations follow is to form a small team of  junior or less experienced people with senior people on the job making them work together on a project.

Another important factor that many researchers agree is that a new insight is born when you combine other peoples’ ideas and hunches with your own acquired knowledge and expertise. For successive iteration of hunches and ideas, you need close and trusted relationships and social networks can help here.

Social relationships through social networks in workplaces can facilitate such recombination to happen.

Flow of Influence

It is a known fact that people having more number of connections in their network and who are early adopters of a new technology or innovation can easily spread it to the rest of the network members. They are more or less something like micro-influencers.

Secondly, there is social capital, which is built over a period. Social capital is the invisible bond that binds employees to work together as teams. The management does not force such social relationships. They enjoy each other’s company and love accomplishing tasks and ideating together.  In fact, when the bond is strong, the employees have more confidence in trusting other person’s comments and suggestions. They also seem to follow a path laid down by others with greater trust and they begin to perceive the information exchange as more relevant.

Access to resources

Being connected to friends who have access to scarce resources has proved invaluable to innovators and entrepreneurs. This may or may not be applicable to a corporate workplace environment. Resources in this context, is specifically towards assets, materials, and not information. This is more suited for entrepreneurs having access to funders, who can fund their projects.