6
   

"How your friends' friends can affect your mood"

 
 
dlowan
 
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 06:32 am
I was browsing my New Scientist emails and fund this article:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126881.600-how-your-friends-friends-can-affect-your-mood.html?page=1


I had been reading snippets about this for a while, and found it kind of intriguing.


Here are some excerpts:

Quote:
.......For while all these things might contribute to the way you feel, there is one crucial factor you probably have not accounted for: the state of mind of your friends and relatives. Recent research shows that our moods are far more strongly influenced by those around us than we tend to think. Not only that, we are also beholden to the moods of friends of friends, and of friends of friends of friends - people three degrees of separation away from us who we have never met, but whose disposition can pass through our social network like a virus.

Indeed, it is becoming clear that a whole range of phenomena are transmitted through networks of friends in ways that are not entirely understood: happiness and depression, obesity, drinking and smoking habits, ill-health, the inclination to turn out and vote in elections, a taste for certain music or food, a preference for online privacy, even the tendency to attempt or think about suicide. They ripple through networks "like pebbles thrown into a pond", says Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who has pioneered much of the new work......


Quote:
......To get an idea of what is going on, take Christakis's findings on the spread of happiness, which were published last month. His team looked at a network of several thousand friends, relatives, neighbours and work colleagues who form part of the Framingham Heart Study, an ongoing multi-generational epidemiological survey that has tracked risk factors in cardiovascular disease among residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, since 1948. They found that happy people tend to be clustered together, not because they naturally orientate towards each other, but because of the way happiness spreads through social contact over time, regardless of people's conscious choice of friends (BMJ, DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a2338).



Quote:
.......if a good friend who lives within a couple of kilometres of you suddenly becomes happy, that increases the chances of you becoming happy by more than 60 per cent. In contrast, for a next-door neighbour the figure drops to about half that, and for a nearby sibling about half again. Surprisingly, a cohabiting partner makes a difference of less than 10 per cent, which coincides with another peculiar observation about some social epidemics: that they spread far more effectively via friends of the same gender.

All this poses a key question: how can something like happiness be contagious? Some researchers think one of the most likely mechanisms is empathetic mimicry. Psychologists have shown that people unconsciously copy the facial expressions, manner of speech, posture, body language and other behaviours of those around them, often with remarkable speed and accuracy. This then causes them, through a kind of neural feedback, to actually experience the emotions associated with the particular behaviour they are mimicking......




Quote:
.......The power of strangers

Two factors appear crucial: the frequency of social contact, and the strength of the relationship. This is not too surprising: we know that emotional contagion requires physical proximity. It is also likely that the closer we feel to someone, the more empathetic we are towards them, and the more likely we are to catch their emotional state. However, how these two factors play out in day-to-day interactions is uncertain. What is also unclear - because it has never been properly tested - is the extent to which emotions can propagate through virtual networks, where the opportunity for physiological mimicry is much reduced.

So much for emotions - what about other phenomena that we unwittingly pick up, and pass on, through our social networks? In 2007, Christakis's team, again tracking members of the Framingham Heart Study, found that obesity is transmitted in a similar way to happiness. Your risk of gaining weight increases significantly when your friends gain weight, and it is also affected by the weight of people beyond your social horizon. "Obesity appears to spread through social ties," Christakis says. Again, how likely you are to catch it depends on who you are interacting with: after controlling for factors such as difference in socioeconomic status, the researchers found that an individual's chances of becoming obese increased by 57 per cent if one of their friends became obese, 40 per cent if a sibling did and 37 per cent if their spouse did, irrespective of age (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 357, p 370).



Quote:
......Your work colleagues can also have an effect, particularly if you are in a small, close-knit workplace; and more highly educated friends influence one another more than less educated (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 358, p 2249).

Happiness, obesity, smoking habits - activities that we traditionally think of as shaped by individual circumstances, turn out to be ruled to a large degree by social forces. Many other day-to-day phenomena fit a similar pattern, often counter-intuitively. Take autism: Peter Bearman at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University who in 2004 uncovered a link between suicidal behaviour and certain friendship patterns (American Journal of Public Health, vol 94, p 89), is looking at whether the recent rise in the diagnosis of autism is in any way socially determined. His study is ongoing, but he says his findings could be "explosive". "It is likely that if you have an autistic child in your community the probability of your child being diagnosed with autism is significantly higher."......



What do you think?

What about networks like A2k????








  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 6 • Views: 6,309 • Replies: 21
No top replies

 
Izzie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 07:18 am
@dlowan,
Hey Deb

I find that interesting too - certainly here on A2K - the feelings of others - happy/sad....and all in between, do appear to affect me and the people I know here - and with me, for even some of the people I don't know.

We have a close community here - when one of us is seriously struggling, it can really affect a lot of us - when one of us is jumping about on the deck having a laugh or has some great news to spill - others jump about too. There's a lot of us here who are in daily contact - not just on A2K but with email / phone etc.

Tho I shouldn't probably feel the way I do, I often have more concerns and regard for how my friends are doing here - than I would with my family/colleagues here in real life - for varying reasons. This kind of network is virtual so tho you can hear the pain people experience - you can't see it - sometimes allowing us to be stronger to give someone a lift. In the same vein tho - when celebrations are going on - i.e. when Dutchy became a Cosmic Eagle - folk actually hung around the computers to see this happen and celebrated with him - there was such a feel good factor going on - and for what.... a change of avatar - but it was HUGE for a lot of us - really happy. Same with weddings and funerals.... births and birthday parties.

Some people just pop by once in a while and for some people, a social network like this gives them their sanity.... or fun level, or safety net, or just a place to throw a political opinion in to and get crabby and vociferous - which they might not ordinarily do in their real life.

In social networking tho, I think on something such as A2K - when people are down - there is also a wave of support from quarters near and far which is incredible to see, and feel. Even for people you really don't know and on occasion for folk who in real life, you know you would never be a part of their life.

For me, having support from people who were just willing to support and ask absolutely nothing in return - who say what they say because they choose to say it, not because they have to, and offer perspective on many differing levels - well, if you don't get that in real life coz everyone is judging, just plain sick of the rollercoaster and has to "live" it too or you have lost trust in everything that was real in your life - then having people around who are not there every single minute, but will still take time out of there day to offer a kind word and be there for you - I think that is simply amazing. Or like on a thread where you know someone is waiting for results of say, surgery, or exams, treatment - you sit there waiting to check in on them - perhaps more so than you would with someone who lived next door to you, or a family member.

Social networking as it is here - IMO - even when there is a grumpy person around - if they ask for reassurance - they still get it because there is a whole world of different folk out there. You may not get that in real life if you are known to be Mr Grumpy.


However, in as much as some of us here feel the feelings of the others, or their pain or whatever in some circumstances - there is always someone who will come along and throw in a line and pull them up - and you can really see how that can turn someone around.

When someone starts a happy thread - so many people jump in - now, they could be sat at home feeling like cr*p and a whole load of stuff going on in their lives - but if you see something happy going on here - well, the people I know here just jump onto the happy bandwagon much of the time - it's kinda cool. Perhaps it's a form of escapism - who knows. The empathetic mimicry isn't there - except for an emoticon.

Also, there isn't so much a "status" of the person - what they do or who they are..... there are certainly clique groups - but quite honestly, in this kind of medium it really doesnt matter what someone does or who they are - it's virtual. You can talk on here to someone who in real life you would never approach. (Then again, I suppose that brings in the dangers of a virtual world where you could be talking to someone who is not really the person they say the are.)

I'm sure also that even virtually - eg talking about kids or illness - there is a degree of "does my child have this" "have I got that" when you are writing about symptoms or dicsussing behaviours... I think that is similar to the real world.... however, virtually, you would get MANY different perpsectives, in the real world - your home town, neighbours, friends and family - the perspective, IMO, would be far less.

Having never been on a forum before - I reckon finding something like A2K was actually a lifesaver for me.

Strange 'ole thing - virtual worlds and social networking.

<ha - did I answer the question or just have a big long ramble>
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 07:22 am
i certainly found myself posting less during the last 3 months of the election, the pervasive negative vibe (from both sides) was really too much

and the fact that it spilled out of the politics threads and into more general threads made it even worse

seems to be an overall happier place these last few weeks
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 07:30 am
@dlowan,
I can't remember the name of the book now -- it's upstairs, I can go grab it if you're interested -- but we have a book about reading facial expressions. (E.G. is forever fascinated by what I do and bought it, and I read it 'cause it was interesting.)

One thing I remember from that book is closely allied to this:

New Scientist wrote:

All this poses a key question: how can something like happiness be contagious? Some researchers think one of the most likely mechanisms is empathetic mimicry. Psychologists have shown that people unconsciously copy the facial expressions, manner of speech, posture, body language and other behaviours of those around them, often with remarkable speed and accuracy. This then causes them, through a kind of neural feedback, to actually experience the emotions associated with the particular behaviour they are mimicking......


In the book, the researchers talk about how they isolated and recorded every facial expression (or every muscle that was involved with expressions -- it was some finite but large number) and noticed that when they did a certain cluster of expressions they FELT bad. This wasn't something they were looking for at all -- they were just posing for photographs, for scientific purposes -- but they all noticed it, and it was really marked. I forget exactly what expressions but they were definitely negative expressions -- fear, anxiety, aggression, that sort of thing.

When I was in college and doing a job I HATED, I remember that every day in the elevator I'd do this huge grin on the way up. It was pure facial manipulation -- I'd be feeling terrible when I started it -- but it always helped, and by the time I got off the elevator to greet the first of my co-workers, my despair was no longer writ on my face. (I wasn't grinning either, just neutral after grinning, but the expression itself seemed to help.)
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 07:35 am
@dlowan,
The CBC 's done a couple of programs on the radio about this. Interesting how 'neighbour of a neighbour' can have more impact on your actual life than people you interact with more directly. Fascinating, in fact.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 08:03 am
@sozobe,
I was just reading how adolescents....I THINK especially boys...often misread expressions as angry/aggressive when they are not...as with traumatized people, kids with conduct disorders, anti-social personality disorders etc....

Kind of fits in...

The "half-smile" is often talked about as lifting spirits....
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 08:05 am
@ehBeth,
Yes!!!!!! And how, pray tell?
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 08:05 am
@djjd62,
A slough of despond and hate?????

It's interesting to wonder if networks like A2k have any effect.....would the people who went weirder, and began wearing racist avatars and darkly muttering of the end of the world and assassination have any effect? Even if we ignore them?
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 08:11 am
@Izzie,
Be interesting to do some real research on whether virtual networks really do affect us. I imagine it is in the wings, as they are now quite a common reality. we know cyber-bullying appears to have some real effects.

The Big Things, like Noddy's death, Boida's illness certainly do.

So do random bits of happiness and such...but is this the same as the kinds of effect as is being talked about in the article, or fleeting and basically not able to change anything?
squinney
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 08:42 am
Very interesting concepts. I'd have to say though that Bear's mood effects me way more than 10%.

I tend to fluctuate easily with other peoples moods. I can purposefully decide to not let negativity change my mood, but it can be a lot of work depending on how close the person is or how much influence they have.

Like others, I do find my mood (level of happiness / sadness, etc) shifts depending on what is posted here. When there is a series of uplifting, lighthearted threads where we are bantering I'm happier. The election stuff was a real downer unless I stuck to sozobe's thread and put certain people on ignore.
0 Replies
 
Izzie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 09:22 am
@dlowan,
mmmmm..... perhaps I am reading the article differently...

I am sure that there will be studies going on in the wings - with the recent cyber bullying death and the suicide online... I reckon there will be scientists taking great interest.


Possibly, the effects in this kind of medium may be fleeting - the not so big ones - but possibly - ti could be the not so big ones could be the ones that make a difference to how people act and react - therefore, having an effect on health and lifestyle. In as much as the article points out ...

Quote:
It has also been shown that if a college student suffers from mild depression their roommate will become progressively more depressed the longer they live with them


I would imagine the same applies virtually. If you hang around on threads that are grumpy, angry and debate nothing but doom and gloom - I reckon the folks there would go to bed feeling grumpy and their friends, and friends of friends would feel those effects... and vice versa.

If you hang out in more upbeat territory - where it isn't necessarily happy clappy and all roses round the door - but you have elements of positivity coming in from different angles regularly - then you would eventually take on the effects of the positivity. I dunno - maybe that doesn't make sense, tho to me it does.


I think that what is interesting is the susceptibiity to react to other peoples emotions - which can be happy, and/or sometimes crippling. In a real world - if you are in a bad way - people eventually back off because it does bring them down. I've been there. I've also done it and do it every day in real life still.. The article states

Quote:
Actually cutting ties with old friends might be a bit drastic, though perhaps spending less time with those whose traits we do not wish to share would be a good idea - lazy people, perhaps, or those inclined to negative thinking...


Exactly what I have done - to the point of a preference to live in a virtual world where I can choose just to associate with people who have similar interests and the same kinda outlook - and to see a whole different view of life even tho I may not choose to debate on others threads.


HA.... this made me smile:
Quote:
Finally, if you really cannot avoid spending time with certain people whose behaviours or emotional state you would rather not take on board (certain relatives at family gatherings, perhaps)you could always try repressing your natural inclination to mimic their body language and facial expressions, and so limit the contagion effect - though be prepared for them to instinctively cool towards you as a result.
367 days and counting.

re the last part of the article....
[quote]

What this game plan amounts to is a kind of subtle social reorientation. We will always be vulnerable to what those around us are doing, so as far as possible make sure you are with the right people. Remember the new adage: we are who we hang out with.

Five tips for a healthier social network

1. Choose your friends carefully.

2. Choose which of your existing friends you spend the most time with. For example, hang out with people who are upbeat, or avoid couch potatoes.

3. Join a club whose members you would like to emulate (running, healthy cooking), and socialise with them.

4. If you are with people whose emotional state or behaviours you could do without, try to avoid the natural inclination to mimic their facial expressions and postures.

5. Be aware at all times of your susceptibility to social influence - and remember that being a social animal is mostly a good thing.[/quote]


It think that absolutely applies to the virtual world too.

I do think that tho "some" effects may be fleeting, that actually, the effects long term maybe can change someones life if they keep it as a constant, and in turn, change other peoples lives. If you stick with what is good - no matter what is thrown your way - tho those bits of mud are still there, dealing with it differently makes your quality of life better. If your friends are happy, then their friends will be happier ... that "circle of" thing - so say the studies - and so it continues. In a virtual world - it's an awfully big social network - has great potential!

I'd think that... else I wouldn't be here a? That's just me tho.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 09:30 am
@dlowan,
The big place where I see this happening is on the fitness threads here. People are reporting on the results here, and are getting encouragement here - but in real life they/we're getting out - joining running groups, gyms, dance classes - they/we're interacting with people with different goals from what they/we might have done before.

The encouragement is online in part, but the active/energetic happy people are in real life. They're not relatives/partners/neighbours but they're a new type of acquaintance - and they seem to be making a real difference. Talk to soz/JoeNation/jes/George/mac/Thomas etc ... there's a real change going on. Matches the study results quite nicely.


(dumping grumps out of your social circle definitely works as well - as does going to a happier workplace)
Izzie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 09:41 am
@ehBeth,
OH.... I see - doh-

yep...physical wellbeing as opposed to mental wellbeing. Penny dropped. (tho not the hamster) Razz
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 09:42 am
@Izzie,
Not quite - I think the real-life physical activity has led to positive emotional changes because we're interacting with 'better' people than when we were more slug-like.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 09:53 am
@ehBeth,
Hmmmmmmm...that's a very conscious sort of thing isn't it?


Although perhaps the irl joinings were not anticipated?
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 09:56 am
@Izzie,
I'm specifically thinking about my belly-dance pals, who are just the most amazingly enthusiastic, energetic, lively, laughing women (and a few men).

While the fitness aspect is valuable, the joie de vivre I experience at the studio and haflas is what really keeps me going back. The positive emotional energy is extraordinary there - and I can really feel the difference in myself when I've been away from the studio for more than a week.

Not only do I wear more shiny things there, but I feel more shiny inside.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 09:57 am
@dlowan,
I didn't start bellydancing because I thought it would change my mood. The story of how I got there is quite convoluted - not at all a conscious mood-enhancing effort. It wasn't even for fitness initially.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 10:11 am
@ehBeth,
I was more thinking that joining threads to encourage fitness is a very conscious decision...and I think the research is more talking about things we do not do deliberately, but things that affect us willy-nilly.

But I was kind of intrigued that your decision to join a thread (very conscious and deliberate) had effects that occurred NOT so much because of conscious and deliberate processes.

0 Replies
 
baseballchic
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jan, 2009 11:15 pm
@dlowan,
On places like A2K people are here to seek other perspectives and advice from people who are less likely to judge therefore making places like this stronger on the influential piece of the article you were referring to. But I strongly agree with the article on the fact that the people who you associate yourself with can often have a high degree of influence on what you do and some of the habits you pick up. Just like when you are growing up and you pick up on your parents' morals, you begin to do the same with your everyday friends and associates. Subconsciously, these things become parts of your own behavior and secondhand nature so you don't realize you are doing it. You still have the same beliefs that you are shaped by your individual environment rather than your social one.
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Jan, 2009 12:38 am
so.... if you have a friend who tends toward negetivity, why not choose to suconciously affect their moods. infect them with your posititvity deliberatly. Perhaps you can become the stone at the centre of ripples of happiness.

I know I tend towards negetivity and work hard to quash this. I was asked yesterday had it been a good year last year. My immediate response was "no it had not". I then realised that was a negetive outlook and there were interesting and positive things that had happened for me last year.
My wife is a positive person which I love about her an hour in her company is enough to buoy my mood or at least head in a more positive direction.

In relation to this site I avoid talking about the bad things in my life. I have also noticed that I tend to avoid the illness/cancer/politics negetive threads. This has not been a deliberate thing, I just dont see the point in dragging myself down. I can go there easily without help from you guys.
 

Related Topics

 
  1. Forums
  2. » "How your friends' friends can affect your mood"
Copyright © 2017 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 04/27/2017 at 04:57:09