Stoic Street Smarts

The power of weak ties: Why you need new friends

Published 6 months ago • 5 min read

Stoic Street-Smarts

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“When we look at the experimental data, weak ties are better, on average, for job mobility than strong ties,” says Sinan Aral, a management professor at MIT and co-author of a new paper detailing the study's results, which involved millions of LinkedIn users.

The old saying is, "It's not what you know, but who." The idea is that personal connections are more responsible for professional success than merit or ability. This idea is certainly observable in cases of nepotism or cronyism, but those are so obvious that they don't teach us anything useful or that we didn't already know.

We need something faster and more specific. Ideally, the solution won't feel like the traditional networking that so many people dread, almost as much as they hate the idea of selling.

Fortunately, the Theory of Weak Ties is here to save the day, and baked into the solution is an easy method to increase your chances of finding work, clients, friends, and romance.

Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter distinguishes between the strength of interpersonal ties in his influential work "The Strength of Weak Ties." He refers to close, intimate relationships as strong ties, while more distant connections are labeled weak ties.

Our strong ties are our close friendships and family bonds. These relationships provide emotional support, a sense of belonging, and the ability to mobilize aid in distress. Strong ties are built through shared life experiences over long periods, leading to trust and reciprocity. We interact frequently with these strong tie connections, relying on each other for both affection and assistance.

On the other hand, weak ties represent our broader social network acquaintances. These include old classmates we rarely talk to, distant relatives we see only occasionally, or colleagues from an old job. The interactions are more limited and often situational.

But most importantly, these weak ties bridge different social circles, giving access to non-redundant sources of information and opportunities for collaboration. They expose us to fresh ideas and diverse worldviews.

While our inner circle of confidants provides intimacy, the outer layer of weaker ties gives flexibility. Through weak ties, we can tap into the resources, knowledge, and perspectives of a more comprehensive array of people.

It is the combination of strong ties that bond and weak ties that bridge, which enables cooperation and innovation on a societal level. Our networks gain strength and vitality when weak ties between groups are woven together.

Read the rest of the newsletter on my site

Social media round-up

  • On Linkedin, I warn people never to be jealous because they never know what a person had to do to get what they've got.
  • On Twitter, I wrote a thread telling people the best places to look to find unbiased news.
  • On Instagram, I told people about the 10th Crack Commandment and how it will keep you out of debt.

Some cool content for the week

  • Skincare Stacy's Stack: I'm a not-so-low-key biohacker, always trying to be strong, fit, and look good. As I get older, part of my routine is skincare. There are some great recommendations here on everything from treating acne to defending against sunburn.
  • Sly As a Fox: I enjoy this Substack because it's productivity advice rooted in specific techniques for working in the tech sector. I'm not in the tech sector, but I've enjoyed binging the posts ranging on everything from "Office politics at woke companies" to "Efficient Decision-Making."

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