Nicholas Christakis: The Hidden Influence of Social Networks


This is fascinating:

It’s 18 minutes long, but like a lot of TED Talks, it’s interesting as all hell. The speaker turned his experience working in hospice care to study how common human conditions spread through social networks. Not only does he talk about emotions like happiness and anger (and how those feelings seem to have a life beyond the individual expression of them) but obesity as well.

One thing I wish he’d addressed (and I’m almost tempted to write him a letter to ask him about it) was whether there was a biological component to the spread of traits through social networks. Some recent studies showed that obesity has bacterial/viral components to it, and his work suggests that there’s a way to study the way it spreads from person to person.

And what if there are certain bacterial “cocktails” that promote happiness or dissatisfaction? Those might spread by human contact, too, couldn’t they?

In any event, I’m going to use his description of human social networks in The Buried King. It’s perfect for a scene where non-humans discuss the irritating incomprehensibility of human beings.

Internet! How did I ever get by without you!