Someone To Talk To
When people seek emotional support, how do they decide whom to talk to? Network analysis would suggest that people turn to a core network of close confidants. Based on in-depth interviews with graduate students in one university and nationally representative survey data on adults 18 and older, I find reason to question that belief. Shifting from what people say to what they actually do, I find that people are far more willing to turn to others they are not close to, even near-strangers, than either conventional wisdom or network theories would suggest. Examining why, I discuss why close relationships are more complicated than formal models have been forced to assume, and why social isolation may be less a function of whom people believe they are connected to than whom they actually encounter regularly. The findings suggest that qualitative research has probably become more, not less important in the era of big data.
About Mario L. Small
Mario L. Small has made numerous contributions to research on urban neighborhoods, personal networks, qualitative and mixed methods, and many other topics. He has shown that poor neighborhoods in commonly-studied cities such as Chicago are not representative of ghettos everywhere, that how people conceive of their neighborhood shapes how its conditions affect them, and that local organizations in poor neighborhoods often broker connections to both people and organizations. Small has demonstrated that people's social capital—including how many people they know and how much they trust others—depends on the organizations in which they are embedded. His work on methods has shown that many practices used to make qualitative research more scientific are ineffective. Small is currently working to understand why ghettos differ from city to city and how people decide whom to turn to when seeking support. He is writing a book, informed by recent work in psychology, economics, and other fields, on why people are consistently willing to confide their deepest worries to people they are not close to.
Small, the only two-time recipient of the C. Wright Mills Best Book Award (2005 and 2010), is also a two-time recipient of a Mirra Komarovsky Best Book Award Honorable Mention (2005 and 2010), and a recipient of the Robert Park Best Book Award (2005), a Choice Outstanding Academic Title designation (2010), the Robert Park Award (now Jane Addams Award) for Best Article (2004), a Best Book on Culture Award (now Mary Douglas Prize) Honorable Mention (2004), and a Best Article on Culture Award (now Clifford Geertz Award) Honorable Mention (2003), among other honors. His articles have been published in the American Journal of Sociology, Theory and Society, Social Networks, Annual Review of Sociology, Social Forces, and Social Science Research, among other journals; his work has been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Public Radio International, the Huffington Post, Pacific Standard, Greater Good, the Chronicle Review, Commonwealth, and Spotlight on Poverty, among other outlets.
Small has served as Associate Editor of the American Journal of Sociology, Advisory Editor of Social Problems and Sociological Quarterly, and Editorial Board Member of Social Psychology Quarterly and Sociological Forum. He is currently Deputy Editor of Sociological Science, Editorial Board Member of City and Community and of Social Science Quarterly, and Editorial Committee Member of the Annual Review of Sociology. He has served as Council Member of the Community and Urban Sociology Section and of the Section on Sociological Practice and Public Sociology of the American Sociological Association, and Council Member of the ASA itself. He Chaired the ASA’s Ad-hoc Committee on the 2010 NRC Rankings, which produced the important Report to the American Sociological Association Regarding the 2010 National Research Council Assessment of Doctoral Programs.
At the University of Chicago, as Chair of the Department of Sociology and later Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences, Small spearheaded initiatives that increased support for students, generated resources for faculty research, seeded programs in urban and in computational social science, empirically assessed the institutional climate for students and for faculty of all backgrounds, and substantially expanded the Division's reserves. He has been a trustee of the National Opinion Research Center and the University of Chicago Charter School. He is currently a Board Member of the Spencer Foundation, an Advisory Board Member of the World Economic Forum, a Fellow of CIFAR, an Ascend Fellow of the Aspen Foundation, and an Elected Member of the Sociological Research Association.
Born and raised in Cerro Viento, PTY, Small received a B.A. in 1996 from Carleton College, and an M.A. in 1998 and a Ph.D. in 2001 from Harvard University.