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Connected: The Six Rules of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

Connected: The Six Rules of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

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Published by Jed Diamond
Your colleague's husband's sister can make you fat, even if you don't know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide.

Yes, Happiness is contagious. Your future spouse is likely to be your friend’s friend. Your friends’ friends’ friends can make you fat—or thin.

We think we are individuals who control our own fates, but as Christakis and Fowler demonstrate, we are merely cells in the nervous system of a much greater beast. “If someone you barely know reads Connected,” says Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestselling book Stumbling on Happiness, “it could change your life forever. How? Read it yourself and find out."

How do we influence each other? How do others in our network influence us? I look forward to your comments.
Your colleague's husband's sister can make you fat, even if you don't know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide.

Yes, Happiness is contagious. Your future spouse is likely to be your friend’s friend. Your friends’ friends’ friends can make you fat—or thin.

We think we are individuals who control our own fates, but as Christakis and Fowler demonstrate, we are merely cells in the nervous system of a much greater beast. “If someone you barely know reads Connected,” says Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestselling book Stumbling on Happiness, “it could change your life forever. How? Read it yourself and find out."

How do we influence each other? How do others in our network influence us? I look forward to your comments.

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Published by: Jed Diamond on Sep 18, 2009
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12/29/2012

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Tasha Bock, James H. Fowler, Nicholas A. Christakis
 
Connected: The Six Rules of Social Networks and HowThey Shape Our Lives
By Jed Diamond, Ph.D.Contact:Jed@MenAlive.comWeb:www.MenAlive.com
Your colleague's husband's sister can make you fat, even if you don't knowher. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse.These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another arerevealed in the studies of Drs. Christakis and Fowler, which have repeatedlymade front-page news nationwide.Yes, Happiness is contagious. Your future spouse is likely to be your friend’sfriend. Your friends’ friends’ friends can make you fat—or thin.We think we are individuals who control our own fates, but as Christakis andFowler demonstrate, we are merely cells in the nervous system of a muchgreater beast. “If someone you barely know reads
Connected 
,” says DanielGilbert, author of the bestselling book
Stumbling on Happiness,
“it could changeyour life forever. How? Read it yourself and find out."Can Your Friends Make You Fat?Obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus, according toresearchers Christakis and Fowler. When one person gains weight, close friendstend to gain weight too. Their study was first published in the
New England Journal of Medicine
and involved a detailed analysis of a large social network of 12,067 people who had been closely followed for 32 years, from 1971 until 2003.The investigators knew who was friends with whom, as well as who was aspouse or sibling or neighbor, and they knew how much each person weighed atvarious times over three decades. That let them watch what happened over theyears as people became obese. Did their friends also become obese? Did familymembers? Or neighbors?The answer, the researchers report, was that people were most likely tobecome obese when a friend became obese. That increased one's chances of becoming obese by 57 percent. There was no effect when a neighbor gained or lost weight, however, and family members had less of an influence than friends. Itdid not even matter if the friend was hundreds of miles away - the influenceremained. And the greatest influence of all was between mutual close friends.There, if one became obese, the other had a 171 percent increased chance of becoming obese too.
 
The same effect seemed to occur for weight loss, the investigators say, butsince most people were gaining, not losing, over the 32 years, the result was anobesity epidemic.Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a physician and professor of medical sociology atHarvard Medical School and a principal investigator in the new study, says oneexplanation is that friends affect each others' perception of fatness. When a closefriend becomes obese, obesity may not look so bad."You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at thepeople around you," Christakis said. The investigators say their findings can helpexplain why Americans became fatter in recent years: Persons who becameobese were likely to drag some friends with them.Their analysis was unique, Christakis said, because it moved beyond a simpleanalysis of one person and his or her social contacts, and instead examined anentire social network at once, looking at how a friend's friends' friends, or aspouse's siblings' friends, could have an influence on a person's weight. Theeffects, Christakis said, "highlight the importance of a spreading process, a kindof social contagion, that spreads through the network."Rules of Life in the NetworkAccording to Christakis and Fowler, there are a number of rules that affect allof us in our various networks. 
Rule 1: We Shape Our Network 
As humans we make and remake our social networks constantly. Think aboutyour Facebook network. New people are added, old people are dropped.People we’re not quite sure we want “that much” contact are “hidden.”Even with all our on-line “friends” our real network of those we are close withis quite small. Studies show that most Americans have just four close socialcontacts, with most having between two and six. Sadly, 12 percent of Americanslisted no one with whom they could discuss important matters or spend free time.At the other extreme, 5 percent of Americans had eight such people. 
Rule 2: Our Network Shapes Us 
The old adage to choose your friends wisely is true. A person who has nofriends has a very different life than one who has many. It has been known for some time that first-born children score a few points higher in intelligence thansecond-born children, who in turn score a bit higher than third-born children.

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