Book Review – Hilary Cochran

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The book Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think and Do by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler closely examines how the smallest things we come in contact with, whether we know it or not, affect us. Our relationships, emotions, health, economy and personal prosperity, our views are all influenced by our interactions with others. Complete strangers impact us. We are influenced by what other people do because they give us permission to perform that activity.  It makes us feel like we aren’t alone.  We strive to fit in with society so we observe it, take what we’ve learned, and reenact behaviors.

The ever-growing ways to interact with people online only increase the influence we feel. Online connection opens up new avenues for social contagion. We are exposed to hundreds of lives we’d never see without the Internet. On Facebook, we are friends with our good friends, family, not so good friends, and maybe people we’ve only met once. Seeing all their posts, we are exposed to their life and their own friends. Therefore, the links we have are endless.

The book discusses a variety of topics and examples.

  1. Being surrounded by happy people has a positive effect on our feelings of well-being.
  2. Loneliness is a cause and a consequence of becoming disconnected.
  3. If someone distantly connected to you gains weight, you have a tendency to gain weight. As weird as it sounds, it does not matter if you don’t know them to be affected by them.
  4. Etc.

The New York Times reviewed Christakis and Fowler’s book “In a category of works of brilliant originality that can stimulate and enlighten and can sometimes even change the way we understand the world.” It really opens your eyes up to how much we unconsciously pick up on and then go on to mimic.

The Guardian noted that this book is “extraordinarily rich in insights.” They rise the point that government can look at the way we are influence and with that knowledge, change our society. Crime could be combatted, drug use could be reduced, there are endless possibilities.

A big point communicated throughout this book, however, is that we are most influenced by in person contact rather than contact across social media. The spread of emotions especially needs face-to-face communication. Overall, the author’s evidence suggests that even though online networks create influence on one from another, real life relationships are the most impactful.

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Personally, I would recommend any of my friends to go pick up this book. It was published in January of 2011, but is still very relevant today. I would say it’s aimed for teens and up. It’s only $16.00 and will keep you enthralled. The 368 pages will fly by faster than you know it. It’s chalk full of very relatable examples that help us understand our nature. I found myself noticing thing that I hadn’t done before that my friends do. I started to notice the examples given in the book out in the real world. It’s crazy how many things affect us. If you’re interested in why you do some of the things you do, it’s a must read.

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