Saturday, August 13, 2011

Facebook - The Sociological perspective

We very well know that the Egyptian revolution found its lubrication on a Facebook page. People came together to support Barack Obama in what can be termed as world's first organized political movement on Social Media.

We also know that Social Media can be an effective tool when it comes to solving problems. You can ask queries on forums and experts answer them. People also contribute, share their expertise and experience on blogs & Wikis. All this is leading to the creation of an online society. This society rises up when a revolution is calling, shares knowledge, builds companies and indulges in transfer of wealth, manpower and expertise.

Looking at the fineprint of this society, there are two distinct elements. Lets take the case of Facebook. Facebook has a concept of Facebook pages. Individuals or companies can create "Like Pages" which allows fans of an individual, organization, product, service, or concept to join a Facebook fan club.

Facebook Pages look and behave much like a user's personal private profile, with some significant differences. Public Profiles are integrated with Facebook's advertising system, allowing Public Profile owners to easily advertise to Facebook's users. These pages from a sociological perspective show solidarity among its members based on a common identity or experience. This solidarity was the reason a collective revolt or revolution could take place for Obama, Egypt, Nestle or Toyota. 

Solidarity has been classified into 2 types by Émile Durkheim (father of sociology)- Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity. In a society exhibiting mechanical solidarity, its cohesion and integration comes from the homogeneity of individuals—people feel connected through similar work, educational and religious training, and lifestyle.

Mechanical solidarity normally operates in "traditional" and small scale societies. On the other hand Organic solidarity comes from the interdependence that arises from specialization of work and the complementarities between people—a development which occurs in "modern" and "industrial" societies.

In the case of Facebook pages individuals exhibit mechanical solidarity. Its high determinateness and absolute collective authority show their role in guiding revolutions. In real life and on Facebook in general, there is a tendency to exhibit organic solidarity like in any advanced society. But Facebook pages being an outcome of collective interest coming from these social actors have a tendency to bend towards mechanical solidarity.

This mechanical solidarity can be useful for public and private institutions to generate collective support. But to generate this collective support there is a need to propagate shared experiences and a common culture that can be adopted and accepted by the group.