Network Effects: They Apply to More Than Facebook

We are all familiar with networks effects. The business principle whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it. The most basic example is the platform that allows me to connect with you – the internet. Initially, there were few users of the internet. It was of relatively little value to anyone outside of the military and a few research scientists. However, as more users gained access to the internet there were more and more websites to visit and more people to communicate with. Therefore, the internet became extremely valuable to its users.

One of the fundamental principles of the concept of network effects is Metcalfe’s Law. The law asserts that a company’s value quadruples when the number of users doubles. Or if the number of users quadrupled, the value grew 16-fold. The rate at which the network grows in value has since been contested, however,  Metcalfe was correct that the value of a network grows faster than its size in linear terms.

Metcalfe and network effects in the traditional sense seek to describe and measure “tangible” actions. Tangible in the sense that we can see the speed at which a platform or network grows through the rate at which its number of average daily users increases.

However, network effects apply to “intangible” things as well. It applies to ideas, generosity, kindness, respect, love, empathy, etc..

We take for granted the size of our social networks. We think that our actions, words, and posture only impact those that we can see: our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. However, the networks that surround each of us are actually very widely interconnected.

Our actions actually ripple through our networks like a pebble in water. An act of generosity has an impact on our friends, our friends’ friends, and even our friends’ friends’ friends, better known as the three degrees of influence rule.

Further, if we are each connected to everyone else by six degrees and we can influence them up to three degrees, then one way to think about ourselves is that each of us can reach about halfway to everyone else on the planet!

Why is this important?

It’s important to remember the power that we have to influence others by our words and actions.

Social networks magnify whatever they are seeded with.

The ubiquity of human connection means that each of us has a much bigger impact on others than we can see.

What we say matters.

What we read matters.

What we eat matters.

What we share matters.

The social networks that we create become public goods. Everyone chooses with whom and how they want to connect with others. In the process, a complex and endless web of interlocked relationships and resources are created. Resources that no one person controls but that impact us all.

To truly know ourselves, we must first understand how and why we are all connected. As a start, we must remember where it all started.

Friendship. It’s a Privilege.


Is more than the term we give to our peers that we barely know.

Is more than mere acquaintances.

Is more than surrounding ourselves with those that we think reflect well upon us.

Is more than shared interests.

Is more enriching than shared experiences.

Is even more powerful than shared circumstances.

Friendship is magnetic.

It’s sacrifice.

It’s learning.

It’s teaching.

It’s understanding.

It’s forgiveness.

It’s growing.

It’s mutual goodwill.

It’s respect.

It’s generosity.

It’s accountability.

It’s tenderness.

It’s showing up, over, and over.

Friendship is continued mutual tolerance and mercy.

It’s meeting for coffee even when you a bit under the weather.

It’s driving an hour to see someone you haven’t seen in months.

It’s communicating our deepest fears and our wildest dreams.

It’s patience and a listening ear to give us comfort that our fears are things we will overcome and  the encouragement and support to leap.

Friendship is a privilege.

The privilege of being able to listen to one another.

The privilege of being able to see the essence of one another.

The privilege to walk with one another.

The privilege to believe in one another.

The privilege to accompany one another on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.


Change. It’s in Our Nature.

Change is the only constant. We can either create it or have it thrust upon us. The choice is ours.

Creating it is like the seasons. It’s an incremental process, occurring one day at a time.

There are the depths of the winter. The silence. The times when we feel alone. When we feel as if no one hears or sees our point of view. We ask ourselves what it’s all worth. Is it really worth trying to create the change we seek in the world?

There is the emergence of spring. A coming of age of sorts. Commotion in the air. Spring starts with one bird. The brave bird that strays from the flock and is the first to arrive. Our efforts to create change start similarly. They start with one person. One person that’s willing to escape the herd mentality. One person that is willing to listen. Willing to try to see the world as it could be. Willing to engage in what we are trying to create. Soon, one bird turns into two, three, five, until we have a flock.

A community has emerged.

There is the calmness of summer. Freedom. Openness. Joy. Our community grows. Generosity pervades. We collectively enjoy the fruits of our labor.

There is the tranquility of fall.  Momentum slows. Fractures emerge in our community. Parts of the whole begin to decay. Stubbornness sets in.

And the cycle repeats itself, over and over again. Yet, always different, never the same.

However, when the winter comes again we remember the spring. It gives us hope as to what could be and the strength to endure again in order to create the change we seek in the world.

In creating change, just as with the seasons, there is always something to celebrate.

The celebration of having the courage to think differently.

The celebration of building a community.

The celebration of generosity.

The celebration of decay and the chance to start anew.

The celebration of being human.

Our existence is transient, evanescent,  and inconstant.




The Comparison Trap

When we surrender to the accumulation culture and relent to the constant juxtaposition of ourselves and those around us we relinquish our most elemental form of agency. The agency to shape the experiences of our life.

Our experience is what we agree to attend to.

She gets paid more than I do.

He has a more prestigious job than I.

Her career advancement has been faster than mine.

He’s smarter, funnier, and looks better in a suit.

Everything comes so easy to her.

She’s in better shape than me.

How does she have so many more Instagram followers than I do?

His pictures always get so many more likes than mine.

We live in a culture in which we compare ourselves along every imaginable axis of privilege and every dimension of identity – intelligence, beauty, athleticism, charisma…

Our insatiable desire to compare is the product of an accumulation culture. A culture in which the doctrine of everyday life is based on the acquisition or gradual gathering of things.

The accumulation of goods.

The accumulation of leisure.

The accumulation of accolades.

The accumulation of wealth.

The accumulation of education.

The problem with our incessant drive to accumulate is that it comes at the expense of our own being. It inevitably leads to the deprivation of self because there is always more.

There is, and always will be, someone with more money.

Someone smarter.

Someone better looking.

Someone more charismatic.

When we surrender to the accumulation culture and relent to the constant juxtaposition of ourselves and those around us we relinquish our most elemental form of agency. The agency to shape the experiences of our life.

The moment you focus on others you vacate your soul.

You vacate the power to make incremental daily progress towards the life you want to lead.

The only way to resist and make progress towards changing the culture is to realize only those items which we choose to notice shape our mind. Selective interest and attention prevent us from falling into the comparison trap.

We each must develop an inner barometer for our own values.

We must resist pageviews, clicks, likes, follows, and all of the other quantification metrics that our culture has invented.

When we have the courage to intentionally tend to the things that we find important we have the power to shift our posture from merely identifying what is lacking to envisioning ways to create and shape the world we want to live in.

A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.