American Sociological Association

Review Essay: Important Discussions: Planned, Unplanned, and Even Unremembered

InĀ Someone to Talk To, Mario Small focuses on core issues in the study of social networks and social support that have somehow remained under-examined: how do individuals decide whom they will confide in, and with whom are confidences actually shared? Traditional approaches to answering these questions have relied on self-report, often collected using surveys, or unobtrusive observation (e.g., in-person observation or harvesting data from social media), thereby forcing researchers to assume that individuals can and will report accurately on these characteristics (self-report) or to attempt to discern which observed communications events are confidences and which are merely conversations (unobtrusive observation). Small, in contrast, pursues answers to these questions via a time-consuming and well-planned ethnography, paired with two national surveys, thereby providing insight into how individuals make their decisions to confide and revealing how often they seem to confide without ever making a decision to do so. The result achieves perhaps the highest aspiration of any piece of qualitative sociology: it provides rich material for new research questions and new theories.

The book begins by introducing the core...


Matthew E. Brashears





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