How I Organize My Friends

While reading Daniel’s blog, I stumbled upon a Facebook app called Nexus, which charts out how your friends are linked.

And here is how Nexus graphed my social network:
Nexus Facebook Friend Clusters

Clusters Based On Stage of Life

While there is a discussion here on whether friendship is primarily bound by geography or shared interests, my graph shows that it’s neither. My social networks seem to be based on the stages of my life. Well, that’s kind of obvious to me because that’s exactly how I organize my friends mentally and on my MSN account. I always group my friends according to when I meet them, and who I met them through.

Clusters Reflect Culture

However, what I did find particularly interesting is that the clusters reflect each network’s culture. The more clustered the network, the more conducive the network’s culture is for people to be closer. And all this has little to do with the size of the network. Take my Singaporean high school and Indonesian middle school for instance. Both schools were obscenely large. But my high school in Singapore had no system to ensure people from the same grade would know each other. We didn’t necessarily take classes with people from the same grade, and everyone just shared the cafeteria. So friendships were formed purely by interests. The blonde cheerleaders would sit together during lunch. The rich Asian girls would hang together after school. The British outcasts would aimlessly roam around the libraries. And of course, there would be no reason for the rich Asian girls to talk to the outcasts. And all that is reflected in my Facebook clusters since the network is a lot less dense than the one in Indonesia, where there were designated areas for each grade level – and everybody just knew everybody.

Clusters Reflect Inter-network Connections

And for the observant, you would’ve noticed that there are very strong connections amongst my networks, despite the geographic differences – especially amongst my high schools and middle school. No surprise, actually. They were all part of the same interscholastic association that allowed the schools to compete with each other in sports, forensics and music every quarter. So everybody knew everybody. And these people, mostly nomadic like me, spread across the world like a bunch of dandelion seeds to germinate universities. So, no surprise that there are links from school to university as well.

Limitations: Doesn’t Determine Who I’m Close To

With that said, that’s all Nexus is good for. It doesn’t quite track who I’m close to maybe because I have almost 900 friends on Facebook. But perhaps it’s because, as a nomad, who I’m emotionally close to is not necessarily who I’m geographically close to or who I share lots of interests with. I have extremely diverse interests, so I have hardcore party poopers and social hermits as close friends. Come to think of it, I share very little common interests with my best friends. And we don’t even live in the same countries for goodness’ sakes. But I deeply care for these people, as I would for my own family. So I know my close friends aren’t primarily determined by what they do and what they like, but more by how they think and how we get along.

And Nexus can’t possibly show that kind of dynamic.

How do you organize your friends? And does Nexus depict how close you are to your friends or how close your friends are to each other?