Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think and Do

The book I chose to read for my report was Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. When I first purchased the book, I thought it would be more social media oriented, however the concepts the book lays out regarding connections are applicable to class.

The basis of the book surrounds the theme that connections matter. Whether we’re conscious of our social networks or not, they affect our behaviors, actions, ect. These connections are influential up to the third-degree, meaning our friends’ friend’s friends have an impact on us throughout our lifetime. However, we’re connected with people up to six-degrees. For example, if people were assigned to send a message to “targets” around the world by forwarding an email to someone each subject knew who might in turn know the target person–it would take six steps to find that person. Although people are only influential up to the third degree, it’s nevertheless astonishing and emphasizes the “small world” effect.

Because of how influential our connections are, the book discusses the different ways of using persuasion. For example, instead of targeting smokers to stop smoking, the friends of smokers should be targeted by these ads. This is especially true with network science, as this science can show which people are at the heart of networks–meaning they have the most connections. If these people were targeted, it might be a better tactic for persuasion efforts.

The most important takeaway I’ve gained from reading this book is that who you surround yourself with matters. The biggest predictor of grades in US universities are the grades of other people in their dorm. When people sit next to a person that is overeating, they will also tend to eat more. Our connections, although often unconscious, have a big effect on us. Because of this, it’s important to be kind– this kindness can have an effect on not only the person it is directed to, but also up to three degrees of that person’s connections.

You might be wondering, how does this relate to social media? Although the book doesn’t directly discuss this impact, it can be inferred that connections are magnified through social media. For example, feelings of discontent can arise from our connections on social media as people feel left out–triggering jealousy and worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression. This then bleeds into other aspects of that person’s life affecting their connections. The book also discusses the impact of peer influence, which has only heightened with the emergence of social media since we often use reference groups to help us make decisions. Social media isn’t all bad though–it serves as a space where you transfer information with connections and gain more knowledge.

Overall, I thought this book was very informative but also pretty repetitive. It gave great statistics on the impacts of connections and the complexity of social networks, but it could have been summed up in about 50 pages. Nevertheless, it’s a great reminder that our behaviors and actions affect more than just ourselves and those around us. They can impact people we don’t even directly know. So the moral of the story: be kind.

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