Pretending not to. Social networks as covers (both for love and work)

Great paper by Mikolaj Jan Piskorski (Harvard Business School) “Networks as Covers: Evidence from business and social On-line Networks” . Amazing which patterns everybody can unveil when (almost) all out social interactions leave electronic trails everybody can collect and analyze! Amazing and of course scary!

This paper proposes that networks can act as covers which allow actors to participate in markets while maintaining a plausible excuse that they are not. Most generally, a cover is any action which allows ego to signal to alter that he is of type A when in reality they are of type B.

Evidence from Linkedin: “LinkedIn allows people who are currently employed to go on the job market without looking like they are on the job market. Recruiters are attracted to LinkedIn because they can obtain access to people who are ordinarily very hard to find in the labor market. Interviews with employers reveal that they are aware of this function of LinkedIn, and lose their employees this way.

Evidence from another network (the paper does not explicit which one but says “the network has been designed largely for people to keep in touch with their friends, and not for business purposes. Results indicate that almost 70 per cent of all activity on this on-line network is related to viewing profiles and pictures of others.”, so I might guess the network is Facebook, wondering why Mikolaj didn’t write which is the network… ): Men in particular look at pictures of women they do not know. Furthermore, regression analysis shows that men who publicly declared themselves to be in a relationship are more likely to examine profiles and pictures of women they do not know. Consistent with the view of networks as covers, (…) men in relationships and with large on-line networks are more like to look at women they do not know. In contrast, single men with large networks are more likely to look at women they do know. Implications for network theories as they pertain to organizations are explored.

Credits for picture: pagedooley from Flickr Creative Commons released