Connected by Nicholas Christakis Book Review The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks

Hello and HAPPY DAY!
How does slowing down sound to you today?
Would you like to reduce the noise for just
a bit?
Are you ready to make a choice and decide
to listen?
My name is Igor, SF Walker.
I am here to remind people to slow down.
To reduce the noise.
To walk their lives into a natural flow.
Welcome back to the Book of the Week series.
Every week as I read another amazing title,
I share it with the world.
Today we look at: Connected: The Surprising
Power of Our Social Networks and How They
Shape Our Lives by Nicholas Christakis and
James Fowler
Notions of collective guilt and collective
revenge that underlie cascades of violence
seem strange only when we regard responsibility
as a personal attribute.
Yet in many settings, morality resides in
groups rather than in individuals.
And a further clue to the collective nature
of violence is that it tends to be a public,
not a private, phenomenon.
Two-thirds of the acts of interpersonal violence
in the United States are witnessed by third
parties, and this fraction approaches three-fourths
among young people.
Just as it is often said that “the friend
of my friend is my friend” and “the enemy
of my enemy is my friend,” so too the friend
of my enemy is my enemy.
These aphorisms encapsulate certain truths
about animosity and affection, but they also
convey a fundamental aspect of our humanity:
our connection.
Psychologist Stanley Milgram’s famous sidewalk
experiment illustrates the importance of reinforcement
from multiple people.
On two cold winter afternoons in New York
City in 1968, Milgram observed the behavior
of 1,424 pedestrians as they walked along
a fifty-foot length of street.
He positioned “stimulus crowds,” ranging
in size from one to fifteen research assistants,
on the sidewalk.
On cue, these artificial crowds would stop
and look up at a window on the sixth floor
of a nearby building for precisely one minute.
There was nothing interesting in the window,
just another guy working for Milgram.
The results were filmed, and assistants later
counted the number of people who stopped or
looked where the stimulus crowd was looking.
While 4 percent of the pedestrians stopped
alongside a “crowd” composed of a single
individual looking up, 40 percent stopped
when there were fifteen people in the stimulus
Evidently, the decisions of passersby to copy
a behavior were influenced by the size of
the crowd exhibiting it.
An even larger percentage of pedestrians copied
the behavior incompletely: they looked up
in the direction of the stimulus crowd’s
gaze but did not stop.
While one person influenced 42 percent of
passersby to look up, 86 percent of the passersby
looked up if fifteen people were looking up.
More interesting than this difference, however,
was that a stimulus crowd of five people was
able to induce almost as many passersby to
look up as fifteen people did.
Our connectedness carries with it radical
implications for the way we understand the
human condition.
Social networks have value precisely because
they can help us to achieve what we could
not achieve on our own.
Social networks are creative.
And what these networks create does not belong
to any one individual—it is shared by all
those in the network.
In this way, a social network is like a commonly
owned forest: we all stand to benefit from
it, but we also must work together to ensure
it remains healthy and productive.
This means that social networks require tending,
by individuals, by groups, and by institutions.
While social networks are fundamentally and
distinctively human, and ubiquitous, they
should not be taken for granted.
People imitate the facial expressions of others,
then, as a direct result, they come to feel
as others do.
This is called affective afference, or the
facial-feedback theory, since the path of
the signals is from the muscles (of the face)
to the brain, rather than the more usual,
efferent pathway from the brain to the muscles.
The beneficial effects of facial expressions
on a person’s mood are among the reasons,
for example, that telephone operators are
trained to smile when they work, even though
the person at the other end of the line cannot
see them.
This theory also explains why it helps to
smile when your heart is breaking.
Epidemics of emotional states have been reported
for centuries.
They just have not involved laughter like
the Bukoba outbreak.
When emotions spread from person to person
and affect large numbers of people, it is
now called mass psychogenic illness (MPI)
rather than the old-fashioned and more poetic
epidemic hysteria.
MPI is a specifically social phenomenon involving
otherwise healthy people in a psychological
Like a single startled buffalo within a herd,
a single emotional reaction in one person
can sometimes cause many others to feel the
same thing, creating an emotional stampede.
The pure-anxiety type, people may feel a variety
of physical symptoms, including abdominal
pain, headache, fainting, shortness of breath,
nausea, dizziness, and so on.
In the motor type, people may engage in hysterical
dancing, pseudoseizures, and yes laughing,
though the actual feelings underlying these
behaviors are fear or anxiety.
Both types of MPI thus involve the same basic
psychological processes.
Our unavoidable embeddedness in social networks
means that events occurring in other people
whether we know them or not can ripple through
the network and affect us.
A key factor in determining our health is
the health of others.
We are affected not only by the health and
behavior of our partners and friends but also
by the health and behavior of hundreds or
thousands of people in our extended social
Most people know little about how the health
of the public is protected.
And what we do know, we think about in very
self-oriented terms: the surgeon general’s
warning on the side of a cigarette pack or
the nutrition labels on foods are targeted
at individual users, not at the community
as a whole.
We do not ordinarily appreciate the ways in
which one person choosing certain behaviors
affects the health of others and why this
provides a basis for public health.
Social networks can be difficult to understand
in part because they are difficult to manipulate.
We cannot give you a friend the way we might
give you a placebo.
But if we could somehow strand a group of
strangers on a desert island and watch how
they become connected, and for what purpose,
we might be able to observe social networks
as if we were conducting an experiment.
This does not sound like something that could
be done.
Except that it has been done, and not by curious
social scientists but by television producers.
Friendship and loyalty had trumped self-interest.
This is exactly the dilemma that most of us
face every day: Do we help our friends or
help ourselves?
And what are the consequences?
Will we look dumb if we help others?
Will we look mean if we do not?
Is it possible to be nice and survive?
And how can we possibly make these decisions
when we have many friends in a dancing pattern
of shifting alliances and interests?
The Internet makes possible new social forms
that are radical modifications of existing
types of social-network interactions in four
Enormity: a vast increase in the scale of
our networks and the numbers of people who
might be reached to join them
Communality: a broadening of the scale by
which we can share information and contribute
to collective efforts
Specificity: an impressive increase in the
particularity of the ties we can form
Virtuality: the ability to assume virtual
The networks we create have lives of their
They grow, change, reproduce, survive, and
Things flow and move within them.
A social network is a kind of human superorganism,
with an anatomy and a physiology—a structure
and a function—of its own.
From bucket brigades to blogospheres, the
human superorganism does what no person could
do alone.
Our local contributions to the human social
network have global consequences that touch
the lives of thousands every day and help
us to achieve much more than the building
of towers or the destruction of walls.
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Link to this book is in the description below.
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Never stop learning.
Thank you

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