In Nicholas Christakis: The hidden influence of social networks, I feel that Nicholas has made a significant point about the influence of social media on people. He speaks of the hidden influence of social media on society and how people are connected in simple terms that have to do with the nature and environmental habits of likeminded people. This is a vital yet simple point to make. People influence people through network structures that are essentially made up of groups of bonding people. Let us look at this more in depth.

I personally agree with the theory that people are interconnected. If you read or see on the news a bad news story that about a disaster that happens in another town or even another country, you feel sad for those people affected. You do not know them. You do not live near them. You do, however, feel a common social bond of being a human being trying to get through life and prosper. Nicolas would argue that it is these type of bonds that occur in social media formats every day that make people bond through computer networks. I would say that he is correct. We are all a member of a bonding group of some sort, and give and take product attributes from interacting form the group.

Nicholas speaks from a point of sociology. All of the major studies that we have showcased to a degree so far have been more focused on the social network then the person. He uses the widower effect to illustrate his point. This is a great point. No one can network alone. Networking is a social activity. If a married person dies, the spouse has much heart ache too. The bond to them dies and the pain is real. They are of greater chance of passing away. The reason for this is that it was the bond, not the person alone that kept them alive. We see the same aspect of social networks. The network keeps itself going when you post to a blog, on Facebook, or does a tweet; you are acting in a manner which is social. You are making a point that others will read, react to, repost, and enjoy. They will feel the emotion in the lines that you type. They give you emotional posts back. Social networks are very much the sharing of experience by people. You see the same bond in the married, divorced, and jobless, sports team, gender, preference, political affiliation, and any bond by which people can bond and feel and share emotion.

Look at the current youth movement, Occupy Wall Street. It has sprung up in every major city, many people of the same age and experience, and was spread through social media into the movement that it is today. Those people related emotionally to other. There was no call to arms, specific obligation, or even official news release. There were just many equal posts that many other people read and reacted to. Large numbers of people collectively feeling the same frustration and deciding to make it known in their own towns. Nicholas uses the behavior simulation analogy of coworkers going for “Muffins and Beer” together causing them all of to gain weight. The behavior is learned and shared and bonded. The result is social groups formed and the message is unified. The idea is multi person centric, however, and many different relationships will be formed, causing many pairs and complexities. The same is true in social networks. Many groups will further develop and reform as other groups and react to yet other groups. The common social format which brought them together for “Muffins and Beer” is the structure and activity of using a social media network.

The bottom line is that Nicolas is dead on. If social networks provide benefits which outweigh the costs, have good values present, and allow people to share new ideas and positive goodness, then they will join and form emotional bonds. If more connections, as Nicolas says, means more goodness, then a life of social media is a connected and emotionally rich social one. Anyone for muffins and beer? Ty Ray