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Someone To Talk To

How Networks Matter in Practice

 *James Coleman Award for Best Book

* Outstanding Recent Publication Award, Social Psych, ASA

* Best Publication Award, Soc of Mental Health ASA

* PROSE Book Award, Honorable Mention, Cultural Anthropology and Sociology 

"The book is a tour de force." Karen Cook, Stanford
"Whoever has read Mario Small will recognize in this new book his unmistakable style of making comprehensible what is difficult, of describing ostensibly simple stories of ordinary people which nevertheless challenge our understanding of world.” Jose Luis Molina and Miranda Jessica Lubbers, Redes

Someone To Talk To examines how people use their networks to cope with loss, victimization, failure, and other debilitating stressors. An important part of this process is deciding whom to turn to for support, and both network analysis and common sense would suggest that people will turn to their strong ties, their close friends and family.


Someone To Talk To probes this idea based on repeated in-depth interviews with graduate students coping with stress, self-doubt, failure, health problems, and poverty. Shifting attention from what people say about themselves to what they have actually done, Small finds that people are far more likely to confide in weak ties than typically believed. And they are more reticent about turning to strong ones than network theory has suggested. Testing his propositions on nationally representative surveys of adult Americans of all ages and demographic backgrounds, and on case studies of people as varied as doctors in hospitals, teachers in schools, and soldiers at war, Small finds substantial evidence contrary to the common sense about how people confide in others. Intimacy, trust, and social isolation are complex phenomena that operate in often counter-intuitive ways.

While today it is possible to study people’s networks using enormous datasets and extraordinary computational tools, some questions require, instead, studying people as individuals and delving deep into their personal motivations. A substantive, theoretical, and methodological intervention, Someone To Talk To is an inquiry into human nature, a critique of network analysis, and a discourse on the role of qualitative research in the big-data era

Editorial Reviews:


"Small provides an excellent foray into the deeper social network question of who individuals talk to about issues important to them. Further, his critiques on commonly used methods are well founded and timely. I would highly recommend this book not just for social network analysts or sociologists but health professionals hoping to better understand the social influences that may impact health." -- Tyler Prochnow, Baylor University, World Medical and Health Policy


"In Someone To Talk To, Mario Small roots social network analysis in the messy, contradictory, and fortuitous nature of human interaction. In this important study, Small shows, both through up-close interviews with young adults undergoing major life changes and with general surveys of Americans, that we find the help we need from all sorts of people-those to whom we are close, those who are just acquaintances, and even those whom we have just met. This is a valuable correction to the often overly abstract literature on social networks."
--Claude S. Fischer, University of California, Berkeley


"The reality of who affects our lives through contact is much more complicated, messy, and sometimes even random than contemporary theory and methods suggest. This fascinating book taps into the complex, networked fabric of our lives, revealing ground truth."
--Bernice Pescosolido, Indiana University


"In Someone To Talk To, Mario Small brings relations to life as solutions to problems that people face when they need a hand or an ear. The net we cast as we struggle with our anxieties and concerns is as wide and subtle as this book, which reminds us that our interactions with others are much more delicate than the clumsy representation of ties in graphs would suggest."
--Peter Bearman, Columbia University


"Who you turn to when you want someone to talk to will surprise you. But whomever you talk to, you'll be talking about this book. It's extraordinary!"
--Eldar Shafir, Princeton University


"Refreshing. Someone To Talk To is very readable, yet reflects deep theoretical and methodical advances in sociology. I think this book is a winner both for its theoretical and methodological achievements."
--Nan Lin, Duke University


"Mario Small's book Someone to Talk To turns received wisdom on its head in several ways - reorienting us to the role of weak ties in contrast to strong ones, moving us beyond network structure to practices and norms embedded in the networks we inhabit, and focusing our attention on empathy and the ways in which we find it. The book is a tour de force."
--Karen S. Cook, Stanford University

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