Happiness is a healthy social network

Once again New Scientist justifies my subscription - a fascinating article on how your friends' friends can affect your mood such as happiness. In other words, not just your immediate circle of friends.

The tips provided were:

Five tips for a healthier social network

  1. Choose your friends carefully.
  2. Choose which of your existing friends you spend the most time with. For example, hang out with people who are upbeat, or avoid couch potatoes.
  3. Join a club whose members you would like to emulate (running, healthy cooking), and socialise with them.
  4. If you are with people whose emotional state or behaviours you could do without, try to avoid the natural inclination to mimic their facial expressions and postures.
  5. Be aware at all times of your susceptibility to social influence - and remember that being a social animal is mostly a good thing.

The article questions whether Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point argument that social epidemics are dependent on certain key individuals is correct - though my recall of that book is that connectors are one of the key individuals who by definition have wide social networks. The key point of this article is that the effect spans several degrees of separation.

The comments on the article are well worth reading too including the slightly concerning consequence of the above advice which means undesirable people (eg depressives) could end up isolated.

Some of the happiest times I've had are hanging out with dance friends. Find the right music, venue and dance partner and your cares and woes are soon forgotten. However, that joy extends beyond the dance itself - it's infectious.

Comments:

It has become de rigueur to bash Gladwell these days. However, I think he was basically correct, as far as he goes. The two places where I think he falls short is that there are occasionally other patterns. and second, that it is not possible to predict \*which\* mavens, connectors, etc., will be involved in a given adoption. It thus becomes difficult to really use his observations as a marketing tool. You cannot simply target mavens, because the maven for this product will possibly not be the maven for the last product.

Posted by Brian Utterback on January 12, 2009 at 08:35 AM GMT #

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