An interesting TED talk by Nicholas Christakis on the influence our social network has on us and we on others – even people we don’t know.
He discovered that the “widower effect” was not exclusive to the death of widows or even to pairs. We’re all embedded in a broad series of connections.
He talks about how obesity, divorce, affluence, and happiness tend to be “contagious”. The effect is actually quite strong. Even a friend of a friend of a friend, someone you likely don’t know, if they are obese it increases your obesity “risk” by 10%. Immediate friends are 45%.
He suggests this influence is via Induction (direct influence), Homophily (we cluster due to commonality), and Confounding (a common exposure or influence).
He talks about how behaviours spread but also conceptual ideas like norms. It becomes normal to be obese, for example. He doesn’t mention advertising or large scale events like 9-11 that certainly influence common responses. Trends like the aging of boomers is a factor as well.
He reviews how extroverts tend to introduce (and thus network) friends whereas introverts tend not to. Thus introverts have more peripheral networks, even if they have the same number of friends. A closer network increases the spread of information but also of disease. He also notes that the intimacy of your network is strongly impacted by your genes.
The network has a resilience and memory that persists across time, irrespective of people leaving and joining the network such as through death and birth. He also talks about how the structure of the network itself infers properties on its participants. “It is the ties between people that make the whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.” He refers to this as a super-organism that can help us understand crime, warfare, markets, and product adoption.
“The spread of good and valuable things is required to sustain social networks. Similarly, social networks are required for the spread of good and valuable things. Like love and kindness and happiness and altruism and ideas. …if we realized how valuable social networks are we’d spend a lot more time nourishing them and sustaining them. Because I think social networks are fundamentally related to goodness. And I think what the world needs now is more connections.”
If you see consciousness and thus how we conceive and perceive our world as fundamental, the entire thing makes good sense. We can also appreciate that if we’re internally “centered”, we’re less likely to be the “victim” of community and more likely to be an influencer, a spreader of goodness.
The talk: (18:14)
Together, on spiritual community
Socionomics studies the pattern of social change.
New Scientist article on how gene transfer takes place between organisms near each other
BBC on Degrees of Separation study
Also saw a great clip on how “Influencers” were the key hubs of social networks but could not find the link.