How Social Media Effects our Social Lives
Before social media and the ability to easily access the internet, to make friends the only choices available to you were typically those who lived close to you or in the same community as you . You had to make friends with other kids at school, your neighbors, your job, at church, any type of physical location that is near you where people could congregate. This could be really hard for some people, especially those whose interests did not co-align with their community. Imagine the stereotypical goth kid in movies that lives in a small town of small-minded people. They feel alone, they are bullied, no one wants to be friends with them, it can create serious mental health issues for the person. Then you have those that are very shy or socially inept, they cannot meet new people and tend to avoid others at all cost which isolates them even more. There are also people who want to date but already know everyone around them and cant find a connection, people who have hobbies that no one around them are into, all these people who want friendship or love but cannot build a strong connection with those around them. It can even be hard for those who moved away from their family and are too far away to visit such as a teen going off to college or moving from home for the first time for a new job. These people and many others are the ones who benefit by using social media. We all want to be accepted by others, to be loved, cared for, and to feel like we really matter. Social Media allows us to be able to find other individuals who have the same interests or likes that we do and allows us to build real life connections.
What is Homophily and what does it have to do with Social Media?
Homophily is that need we find inside of us to want to belong, to look for others who have the same interests, ideas, likes, or beliefs that we do. No one likes to argue, we all want to be around others who have the same belief systems as we do. If you had to be around someone who had an opposite view as you, especially something that you strongly believe in how long would you be able to read their Facebook posts or look at their Instagram photos? Do you think you are friends with any of their friends? Homophily is also about connecting with others through a common connection. If you looked at a persons page with whom you were good friends with, and also shared a lot of the same ideas and believes with and clicked on one of their friends, more than likely you would also find common interests and likes with them as well. Homophily is a way to build connections through a common connection, If you look at the old saying “birds of a feather flock together”, it describes exactly the meaning of homophily.
Homophiles effects on Social Media Algorithms
On social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, when you login to your account the screen that comes up is your main page or your profile. On that main page is where your “friends”, pages you’ve liked or the ones you follow content is usually shown, this is called a feed. The feed can also contain suggested information for you based on your likes, friends, and what you follow. This is done by using an algorithm the social media site has put into place. This is a perfect example of homophily, based on what your social media activity is, you are then shown similar content from other users not content recently posted or what is hot right now, is uses your activity to suggest other content so it is personalized toward you. A lot of the time you will notice some of your friends may already be friends with them or have liked their pages. The algorithms use homophily because it has been shown that humans like and move toward those who have similar or the same interests as they do. If you used one of these sites and could never find anything you liked more than likely you would stop using it which the creators of the site would not like.
Murase, Y., Jo, HH., Török, J. et al. Structural transition in social networks: The role of homophily. Sci Rep 9, 4310 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-40990-z
Barnhart, Brent. 08/13/2019. “Everything you need to know about social media algorithms. Retrieved From: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-algorithms/