From laughter epidemics to suicide cascades to the socially contagious spread of obesity, I present intriguing evidence to show that our real life social networks drive and shape virtually every aspect of our lives. How we feel, whom we marry, whether we fall ill, how much money we make, and whether we vote all depend on what others around us—even those distantly connected to us—are doing, thinking, and feeling. I show that these connections have an ancient evolutionary past, and describe how this will affect our new life as technology moves our social networks online.
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The notion of the self-determining, self-directed individual is rapidly losing favour as we discover ever more about the way humans operate, behave, and make decisions in social contexts.
Social scientist Nicholas A. Christakis visits the RSA to explain how our social networks influence our ideas, emotions, health, relationships, behaviour, politics, and so much more. It transpires that your colleague’s husband’s sister can make you fat, even if you don’t know her. And a happy friend is more relevant to your happiness than a bigger income. Our connections - our friends, their friends, and even their friends’ friends - have an astonishing power to influence everything from what we eat to who we vote for. And we, in turn, influence others. Our actions can change the behaviours, the beliefs, and even the basic health of people we’ve never met.
In showing how we are all unavoidably and inextricably connected, Christakis presents a picture of an unknowingly collaborative society, and what we can do to best utilise the power of these networks.
Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA
How can your friends — and your friends’ friends — affect you? We’ll talk with Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, two researchers exploring social networks and how they affect our health and behavior. In their new book ‘Connected,’ the pair describe research into how social networks tie into obesity, smoking, voting behavior, happiness, and more.