A Community of Strangers: the Dis-embedding of Social Ties
In this paper we explore two contrasting perspectives on individuals' participation in associations. On the one hand, some have considered participation the byproduct of pre-existing friendship ties — the more friends one already has in the association, the more likely he or she is to participate. On the other hand, some have considered participation to be driven by the association's capacity to form new identities — the more new friends one meets in the association, the more likely he or she is to participate. We use detailed temporal data from an online association to adjudicate between these two mechanisms and explore their interplay. Our results show a significant impact of new friendship ties on participation, compared to a negligible impact of pre-existing friends, defined here as ties to other members formed outside of the organization's context. We relate this finding to the sociological literature on participation and we explore its implications in the discussion.