How do we determine how to allocate our time, resources, and friendship with those whom we call friends or acquaintances? An interesting set of research studies conducted by Social Psychologists Shigehiro Oishi Selin Kesebir suggest that Socioeconomic factors might have something to do with our decisions, at least in the United States.
Using a computer model, and then comparing their results to an online survey of the same nature these Social Psychologists confirmed their hypothesis that two Socioeconomic Factors, residential mobility and economic conditions, have a hand in determining whether we have a broad or close knit social network. It also seemed to have a hand on our overall well-being.
“In zip codes that were residentially stable and relatively low income, participants who had a narrow, deep friendship strategy reported greater well-being than those who had a broad, shallow friendship strategy. Notably, the broad, shallow strategy was associated with subjective well-being in all three of the other economic conditions (low income-unstable, high income-stable, high income-unstable).
Oishi and Kesebir argue that these results provide clear evidence for the role of socioeconomic factors — such as residential mobility and economic security — in determining the most adaptive networking strategy.”
Their explanation behind this trend seems pretty straight forward:
“…Americans may prefer a large social network, for example, because Americans move around a lot. Thus, it may make sense to spread time and resources across many friends to minimize the loss of any one friend moving away. Economic conditions at a given time are also a factor. When times are prosperous, they speculate, your friends are less likely to need much help, whether it’s covering a hospital bill or providing babysitting, and so a broad network of friends is easy to maintain. But when times aren’t as flush, having more friends might incur huge costs in terms of both time and resources.”
The Social Psychologists also suggest that this is not the trend outside the United States, where ‘facebook culture’ is less prevalent and individuals stick with close knit communities. They also suggest that this trend could be changing:
“”As residential mobility decreases and economic recession deepens in the United States, the optimal social-networking strategy might shift from the broad but shallow to the narrow but deep, even in a nation known best for the strength of weak ties,” the researchers conclude.”
So what do you think, do you think this is true? Do you think it’s an overgeneralization? For example, are those in professions who are more prone to giving going to still follow the same trend? Would these individuals be less hesitant to give in times of financial difficult than others, and thus continue to maintain their broad network?
This type of social research is incredibly applicable to Macro social work, as one’s preference for network size could influence one’s interest in helping others or banning together for a shared cause. This is very interesting research indeed!
Written By Georgianna Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer
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