The Power of Social Networks

Wired Magazine profiles an extremely interesting book on the power of social networks, and how the actions of one individual can spread throughout it:

There’s something strange about watching life unfold as a social

network. It’s easy to forget that every link is a human relationship and

every circle a waistline. The messy melodrama of life—all the failed

diets and fading friendships—becomes a sterile cartoon.

But that’s exactly the point. All that drama obscures a profound

truth about human society. By studying Framingham as an interconnected

network rather than a mass of individuals, Christakis and Fowler made a

remarkable discovery: Obesity spread like a virus. Weight gain had a

stunning infection rate. If one person became obese, the likelihood that

his friend would follow suit increased by 171 percent. (This means that

the network is far more predictive of obesity than the presence of

genes associated with the condition.) By the time the animation is

finished, the screen is full of swollen yellow beads, like blobs of fat

on the surface of chicken soup.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.