Alexis Madrigal on “weak ties” and activism

“I’ve been watching some people’s minds work on [Facebook] for years. Every day I see their faces in my feed. To label these weak ties is just inaccurate. And it makes me wonder, can’t we know people through their writing? Is face-to-face contact the only way to build strong ties?

“University of Maryland-Baltimore sociologist Zeynep Tufecki also points out that, as in my case, lots of weak ties beget some strong ties.

“The relationship between weak and strong ties is one of complementarity and support, not one of opposition. Gladwell has written about weak and strong ties before and continues a tradition of contrasting them as ontological opposites, somehow opposing and displacing each other,” Tufecki writes on her blog Technosociology. “That is a widespread conceptual error and rests upon an inadequate understanding of these concepts. Large pools of weaker ties are crucial to being able to build robust networks of stronger ties — and Internet use is a key to this process.”