Sunday, 11 December 2011

Facebook Power, how social networks run the world

Precisely how important is Facebook?  It might be easy to the system of likes and friends as kind of a game, but there is a very serious to social networks.  The most important thing to think about social networks is that they are not just links of people, but are active entities themselves.

Facebook is perhaps the most connected global network ever, with over 800 million members it is shocking how connected people are with recent research indicating that any member is only five degree of separation of any other member of Facebook Six degrees of separation? More like 4.74.

But how can we use this information to learn and influence people?

It makes sense that a social network can be mined to learn about people.  People are going to become friends with people who are like them, people who share common backgrounds, interests and features.  But it is more than that, location in a social network changes people.  The network takes on a life of its own, the change in nodes of the network impact people who are not even directly connected to each other.

For example happiness, not only are people who smile on their Facebook page more central and influential in the overall network (Edge: SOCIAL NETWORKS AND HAPPINESS By By Nicholas A. Christakis & James Fowler), but it is also the case that smiling is contagious.  Christakis and Fowler have also discover that happiness spread through a network three degrees, meaning happiness could spread to people in a network with no direct link Happiness is contagious | Social Capital BlogDynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study | BMJ.

What Christakis and Fowler have discovered is not only do smiling people group together on social networks but that over time happiness seems to spread through a social network
People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals.
So it is not just that people join social networks depending on their traits, but that they are impacted by these social networks.  Social networks change us.  As a collective we are more than just a cluster of people, but a community that extends to some degree beyond its members.

But is all not positive, having fat friends also seems to make people fat nicholas christakis | Social Capital Blog.  So what we always knew about peer pressure seems to be true, the communities we join assert a power on our behaviour,  beyond just direct encounters were are in a way mobilised by the networks we are in. 

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