The mania over social networking is really a mania over the online component. Social networks have been in place for millennia. And reminders of this pop up in unexpected places all the time. Like in Truman Capote's classic novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's.
The earnest, plodding young narrator follows all the rules for getting his writing published. He mails each manuscript off and passively waits for rejection letters by return post. But he gets a casual dose of common sense networking from his neighbor, Holly Golightly, who says that she can help him land a Hollywood script deal:
"I'm going to help you," she said. "I can, too. Think of all the people I know who know people."
There's the strength of weak ties, clearly articulated in a fictional conversation, 15 years before Granovetter published it as a scholarly finding.
And there's something else here. Holly and her author-neighbor are not connected by a common alma mater or some other granfalloon. They're connected by something that Holly herself determines is relevant:
"I'm going to help you, because you look like my brother Fred. Only smaller."
This can serve as a cautionary reminder about how little it often takes for groups to form, with or without your alma mater as a focal point. And now that forming groups is so easy, looking like brother Fred is sometimes much more important than sharing a school connection.
That should be a wake-up call to alumni organizations, which no longer (necessarily) play a central role in connecting people to one another and helping them organize around their interests.