Recent research shows that our behaviors and habits are more strongly influenced by friends and relatives than we might imagine. Furthermore, it seems that behaviors, ill-health and even moods pass through friendship networks across several degrees of separation, and we are almost bound to "catch" them.
The research applies to our face to face social networks but what intrigues me is the unanswered question: What about our on-line social networks, mediated through FaceBook, discussion forums and the like? What influence do these networks have on our behaviors? I suspect they too have an influence albeit to a lesser degree.
In the article, they offer five tips for a healthier social network:
This seems good advise for our online social networks also!
- Choose your friends carefully.
- 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.
- Join a club whose members you would like to emulate (running, healthy cooking), and socialise with them.
- 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.
- Be aware at all times of your susceptibility to social influence - and remember that being a social animal is mostly a good thing.Source: Three Degrees of Contagion, New Scientist, January 2009.