n. A network of personal or business contacts, especially as facilitated by social networking on the Internet.
A social network is a social structure made up of a set of social actors (such as individuals or organizations), sets of dyadic ties, and other social interactions between actors. The social network perspective provides a set of methods for analyzing the structure of whole social entities as well as a variety of theories explaining the patterns observed in these structures. The study of these structures uses social network analysis to identify local and global patterns, locate influential entities, and examine network dynamics.
Social networks and the analysis of them is an inherently interdisciplinary academic field which emerged from social psychology, sociology, statistics, and graph theory. Georg Simmel authored early structural theories in sociology emphasizing the dynamics of triads and "web of group affiliations". Jacob Moreno is credited with developing the first sociograms in the 1930s to study interpersonal relationships. These approaches were mathematically formalized in the 1950s and theories and methods of social networks became pervasive in the social and behavioral sciences by the 1980s. Social network analysis is now one of the major paradigms in contemporary sociology, and is also employed in a number of other social and formal sciences. Together with other complex networks, it forms part of the nascent field of network science.
In the field of sociolinguistics, social network describes the structure of a particular speech community. Social networks are composed of a "web of ties" ( Lesley Milroy) between individuals, and the structure of a network will vary depending on the types of connections it is composed of. Social network theory (as used by sociolinguists) posits that social networks, and the interactions between members within the networks, are a driving force behind language change.