TouchGraph is an interesting data visualization tool that I like to play with every now and then; I find it a fascinating way to surf through the results of a Google Search. After completing course readings on the social graph, I thought of Touchgraph’s ability to visually map Facebook contacts and decided to see what my social graph looked like (at least the part of it that’s on Facebook).
It’s interesting to me that TouchGraph chose blue for the group of friends that includes my siblings, my cousins, and my childhood friends and associates. True blue, perhaps? It’s equally interesting to me that my cousins are included in this group since my cousins grew up 2,000 miles away from me and have never met my childhood friends. But since both my childhood friends and my cousins are linked to my siblings as well as to me, TouchGraph groups them together. My husband is one of the biggest circles in my TouchGraph network. TouchGraph is “smart” enough to recognize that he’s important. TouchGraph assigned my husband and my in-laws the color of yellow, a nice complement to the blue of my family. The friends that I have met through my husband are orange. My husband’s former coworkers are purple. My professors, coworkers and classmates in the world of instructional design are red, while most of my professors, and classmates from my days in the world of public policy are are blue-green. The classmates who were also roommates are green along with all of our neighbors from that time period.
How many people would I say are “misclassified”? Well, there are some individuals who are the “wrong color”, but since they’re isolated from the group of that color, I figure TouchGraph was trying to make them into a new group. Based on that assumption, only eight are in the “wrong group”.
Now, TouchGraph can’t begin to graph my entire social graph because my entire social graph is not represented by Facebook. None of my family members over the age of 50 are on Facebook; only one member of my husband’s family who is over 50 is on Facebook. Outside of the current graduate students and university employees, who make up the majority of my current social circle, only a few of my face-to-face friends who are over 30 are on Facebook. As a result, Facebook does a poor job of representing my social circle from my days as an undergraduate or a high school student.
Currently, I only have two Facebook “friends” who aren’t also real-world contacts. They aren’t even the virtual friends that I’ve had the most significant interaction with. I’m honestly not even sure if they should be represented in my social graph, let alone how best to represent them.
I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a matrix of the relationship data of all of my contacts and then using the trial membership of TouchGraph to see what it looks like, but I don’t think I have the time to do it (at least not without a good reason for it). However, I’m enough of a nerd that I just might do it. After all, with all the time that I’m not spending creating a visual representation of my social graph, I might actually make more friends. If I keep putting it off, the job is just going to get bigger.