In the late 1890s, both Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tönnies foreshadowed the idea of social networks in their theories and research of social groups.Tönnies argued that social groups can exist as personal and direct social ties that either link individuals who share values and belief (Gemeinschaft, German, commonly translated as "community") or impersonal, formal, and instrumental social links (Gesellschaft, German, commonly translated as "society").In the balance theory of Fritz Heider the triad is the key to social dynamics.The discord in a rivalrous love triangle is an example of an unbalanced triad, likely to change to a balanced triad by a change in one of the relations.
Although levels of analysis are not necessarily mutually exclusive, there are three general levels into which networks may fall: micro-level, meso-level, and macro-level.
Together with other complex networks, it forms part of the nascent field of network science.
The social network is a theoretical construct useful in the social sciences to study relationships between individuals, groups, organizations, or even entire societies (social units, see differentiation).
The term is used to describe a social structure determined by such interactions.
The ties through which any given social unit connects represent the convergence of the various social contacts of that unit.
The study of these structures uses social network analysis to identify local and global patterns, locate influential entities, and examine network dynamics.