"Social Objects" are objects around which social networks form. The concept was put forward by Jyri Engeström in 2005 as part of the explanation of why some social networks succeed and some fail. Engeström maintained that "Social network theory fails to recognize such real-world dynamics because its notion of sociality is limited to just people." Instead, he proposed what he called "object centered sociality", citing the work of the sociologist Karin Knorr-Cetina.
The concept was popularized by Hugh MacLeod, cartoonist and social observer in 2007, who cites: "The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Social Networks are built around Social Objects, not vice versa. The latter act as "nodes". The nodes appear before the network does. Granted, the network is more powerful than the node. But the network needs the node, like flowers need sunlight".