Social Networking Found to Predate the Web

A recent study by Harvard and UCSD researchers suggests that ancient hunter-gatherers had interactions similar to the social networking of today’s Facebook or LinkedIn. This helps answer whether networking is a product of modern technology or if it could have been a survivalist tool utilized by ancient man.
The existence of an ancient social network system that allowed cooperative and altruistic humans to gather together would help explain why these facets of human life exist today. Some even theorize that selfishness would have out-competed selflessness without this form of networking.
“We found that what modern people are doing with online social networks is what we’ve always done, not just before Facebook, but before agriculture,” UCSD professor James Fowler said in a Jan. 25 campus press release.
The researchers studied the Hadza, an ethnic group in northern Tanzania. Within it is a smaller population that still practices the traditional hunter-gatherer model of living, which predates agriculture and domesticated animals. Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, a professor at Harvard Medical School, chose this group not only because of the lifestyle, but also because of its level of genetic isolation.
Researchers administered tests that were co-created by Fowler. First they asked the adults whom they would prefer to live with. Later, knowing that honey was a favorite food among many of the Hadza, each adult received three honey straws and was told to distribute them to friends. This would allow the team to draw out initial social ties among the participants.
Scientists also studied friend connectivity between other traits, such as height, strength, food preference, and the transitivity of friendship, which is whether or not people had mutual friends.
When the researchers mapped the data by examining the camp ties and the transfer of straws, they discovered how sharers were often friends with other sharers while non-sharers were friends with other non-sharers, with little to no intermingling in between.
“We turned the data over lots of different ways,” Fowler said. “We looked at over a dozen measures that social network analysts use to compare networks and pretty much, the Hadza are just like us.”
Fowler could not be reached for comment as of press time.