Shireen Mitchell made a subtle point at today’s Internet Advocacy Roundtable discussion: people often refer to Twitter as an online social network, but she doesn’t think of it that way. To her, Twitter itself isn’t a social network, it’s a communications channel that lets users create their own social networks.
That makes sense to me, since classic networks require a back-and-forth relationship as on Facebook, but Twitter-following isn’t necessary reciprocal — you may be following Ashton Kutcher but I doubt he’s following you. Connections on Twitter CAN be reciprocal if people follow each other, and even better they can be truly collaborative if many voices participate in a distributed conversation via hashtags or other aggregators. We should just be careful not to confuse the human/social networks with the technology that makes connections possible. We create the relationships; the technology just gives us the chance.