Network Theory: Coronavirus and Online Social Interactions

Network Theory influences multiple aspects of communication and shows how people are connected to each other in the networks they belong to. Network Theory studies the ways that people or objects are linked together. 

Nodes are linked together by edges in networks. Edges can be strong or weak, depending on the strength of the connection between people. Close friends and family make strong edges, and friends of friends form weaker edges. 

There are many networks that people belong to: school, social media, church, work, banks, libraries, travel, shopping, friends, and other groups. Each of these networks affects what information people get and how ideas are spread. 

Networks are rarely linear and instead are represented by graphs or webs. They become increasingly complex as more nodes and interactions take place. 

Network Theory examines social networks and social media, but it can also be applied to human diseases like the coronavirus. As shown by the current coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on large gatherings, once something is introduced into a network it can travel quickly and spread widely, even if the original source has no direct contact with others outside his node. 

With coronavirus, a person with the virus can give it to someone else by proximity. Those exposed to the virus are at risk of getting it, and when they are around others they can give the virus to them. This is why limits have been placed on groups of people: to limit interactions and slow the spread of the virus. 

Studying the networks of coronavirus and how it spreads between people who are near each other helps understand how networks online work. The principle is the same, but on a digital platform. 

For example, on social media an idea can be introduced and people share it on their feeds and in posts, fueling the fire. Different groups of friends can receive the message and send it to another network they are a part of, further spreading the message. Eventually, the message reaches most people or may taper off after time. 

Coronavirus is an example of a network that has far-reaching effects and relies on interactions between people, so it mirrors how networks function in the online sphere. Network Theory can describe how people are linked together in a visual way and explain patterns of the structure.

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