Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

Your colleague’s husband’s sister can make you fat, even if you don’t know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Christakis and Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide.

In CONNECTED, the authors explain why emotions are contagious, how health behaviors spread, why the rich get richer, even how we find and choose our partners. Intriguing and entertaining, CONNECTED overturns the notion of the individual and provides a revolutionary paradigm-that social networks influence our ideas, emotions, health, relationships, behavior, politics, and much more. It will change the way we think about every aspect of our lives.

Your colleague’s husband’s sister can make you fat, even if you don’t know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Christakis and Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide.

In CONNECTED, the authors explain why emotions are contagious, how health behaviors spread, why the rich get richer, even how we find and choose our partners. Intriguing and entertaining, CONNECTED overturns the notion of the individual and provides a revolutionary paradigm-that social networks influence our ideas, emotions, health, relationships, behavior, politics, and much more. It will change the way we think about every aspect of our lives.

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3 Responses to Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

  1. A masterpiece “Connected” by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler is one of the most important books you will ever read. In this insightful and thought-provoking book, the authors explore our social networks and their powerful shaping role in our daily lives. The authors show that the powerful role of social networks obeys the Three Degrees of Influence Rule, meaning that our behaviors have impact on our friends, our friends’ friends, and our friends’ friends’ friends. This amazing fact can be applied to human experience as diverse as happiness, loneliness and other emotions, political views, sex, and health. For example, happiness can spread through social networks from person to person to person, and our health behaviors can affect those of our friends, our friends’ friends, and even our friends’ friends’ friends.As I perused this book twice since its publication, I found reading “Connected” very delightful since it presents a constellation of thought-provoking, and sometimes counter-intuitive, ideas on social networks. We can enjoy the book solely for the purpose of enhancing our knowledge. But I think this book is much more than that and has meaningful implications in various ways. First and foremost, the book has very important implications for policymakers. For instance, as the authors articulated in Chapter 4, social-network perspectives can offer a whole new set of cost-effective public-health interventions. This innovative approach is particularly relevant at a time when soaring costs of health care are a major issue and health care reform is gaining momentum. Many policymakers now know that nudging is important, but they don’t know how to implement it. This book provides a good answer.Second, “Connected” has significant implications for academia as well. Efforts to understand human behavior have been confined to a long debate of individualism versus holism. This book offers an entirely different way. By studying social networks, the authors suggest, we can find the missing link between the two perspectives. In other words, through the investigation of how emergent properties arise and exert influence on our lives, we can truly understand human condition and behavior for the first time. This is almost a manifesto, calling for a change in the traditions of “either or approach” between individualism and holism towards “both and approach” by means of the solid bridge offered by social networks that could resolve the chasm. Such a manifesto is convincing and has a strong stance because it is soundly supported by the thoroughly researched evidence from the authors and others.Finally, this book has meaningful implications for each and every individual because we are all embedded in our social network (both real-world and online network). The fact that we are all connected to others through social networks is significant to us partly because such networks influence us in every aspect. So after reading this book, some may behave differently so that social networks can have positive influence on them. For example, we may try to make friends with happy, slender and rich people. But I think that is not far from a kind of social determinism. Rather, what this book repeatedly stresses is the importance of our own role in social networks–the surprising power of us as humans and how we shape our social networks. The authors assert that social networks are important not only because of the effect others have on us but also because of the effect we have on them. In this sense, being embedded in social networks is a matter of our social responsibility with strong commitment to creating and enhancing public goods. This book thus teaches us one of the most important truths of our life that we are responsible for, and should take care of, others.Whether you are a policymaker, scientist or everyman like me, if you want to understand who we are and what we must do to be truly human, “Connected” is a must-read. If you are to read just one book this year, this is the one.

  2. moderate user

    Good premise, little backup, too many words While the statistics in the original journal articles might be fine, the authors do not present the interpretations in a particularly convincing way. Many interpretations given are just stated and the reader is apparently supposed to accept that explanation without evidence why it is the correct explanation. Even I can think of alternate explanations for some of their observed data.Also, in many chapters the point is made and then elaborated upon for pages when they could’ve stopped much earlier–or else instead of just restating the same conclusions over-and-over, they could’ve told why other explanations don’t work.

  3. Kathryn Schultz "kathryn Schultz"

    what we always suspected I loved this book. Sensitive, aware people perceive on a daily basis that actions, behaviors and emotions impact the lives of those around us, but the science that proves conclusively that your behaviors are impacting mine, my spouse’s and friend’s in Idaho offers such hope for improvement in the cosmic social network of which we all have our “connectedness”. I loved the anecdotal stories – Nicholas and Erika meeting, the Starbucks employee, crazy unstoppable laughter – to which each reader will add additional network stories. We are connected, like it or not, so perhaps we can all start behaving in ways that benefit the entire network. Everyone who reads this will think twice about the impact of cutting someone off in traffic. Dr Christakis and Dr. Fowler have written for the scientific world, NY Times and lay reader – all who are part of the network.

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