The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Social Networks’

Christakis Speaks to Harvard Freshmen about Social Networks

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 3, 2011

From the Harvard Gazette:

Harvard College freshmen got their first taste Aug. 26 of the world of ideas awaiting them over the next four years in a talk by Professor Nicholas Christakis, who argued that human social networks have the power to spread obesity — or happiness — like contagion.

Christakis, who teaches at Harvard Medical School as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, delivered the 2011 Opening Days Lecture, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.” He told students at the outset that his work is not primarily concerned with online social networks, but instead focuses on “old-fashioned, face-to-face” relationships and their construction and meaning in people’s lives. A “bucket brigade,” for example, is a network of individuals optimized to perform a task in pursuit of a goal: the transport of water to extinguish a fire. Take the same network and organize it in a different way, and it will be optimized for a different purpose: a telephone tree to disseminate information; a Ponzi scheme for the profit of grifters.

Christakis, who is a medical doctor as well as a Ph.D., discussed his interest in the impact of human social networks on public health. In 2002, he and some colleagues studied the problem of obesity, often called an “epidemic” in Western society. Christakis said he wanted to examine social networks to see whether or not obesity actually spreads from person to person, like a virus. He showed students graphs of data from the 30-year Framingham Heart Study, and explained how he and his colleagues analyzed clusters to see if someone were more likely to become obese if a friend were overweight.

“We found that, if your friend is obese, there is a 45 percent greater likelihood that you will become obese,” he said. “If your friend’s friend is obese, the likelihood is 25 percent higher. In fact, only at four degrees of separation — your friend’s friend’s friend’s friend— is there no longer a relationship between that person’s body size and yours.”

Christakis said that he and his colleagues found that human social networks could also move public health in a positive direction. For example, since 1971, the proportion of the U.S. population that smokes tobacco went from 40 percent to 20. Christakis again displayed data from the Framingham study that showed people typically quit smoking in clusters. A person was more likely to stop using tobacco if his or her friend — or even a friend’s friend — stopped.

The study of networks and happiness gave Christakis his greatest personal satisfaction, he said, and allowed him to settle an old debate.

“In high school, [my friends and I] would tell our mothers, ‘If I could just be more popular, then I would be more happy,’ ’’ he said. “Our mothers would say, ‘Actually, if you become more happy, then you’d be more popular.’ It turns out that we were right, and our mothers were wrong! Being in the middle of a network enhances your happiness. If you become more popular, that contributes to being happy more than being happy contributes to being more popular.”

Toward the end of his talk, Christakis did turn to the differences between online and traditional networks. In a study of Harvard undergraduates on Facebook, he found that students had an average of about 110 “friends.” To see how many of these relationships were close and how many tenuous, he had some students look at Facebook profiles to see how often classmates uploaded and tagged photographs of people they were connected to online. The findings reinforced the value of relationships based on traditional face-to-face contact.

“You might have 1,000 friends on Facebook, but only for a subset of them do you appear in a photograph that gets uploaded and tagged with your name,” Christakis explained. “Based on this, we found that people typically had over 100 Facebook friends, but only six real friends [who uploaded and tagged their photo].”

In light of these results, Christakis expressed concern about the way that Facebook had changed the meaning of the word “friend.”

“It’s very interesting to me that Facebook has managed to co-opt a very old word in our language — friend — and apply it where it has no business,” he said. “All those people, they’re not your friends. At best, they’re your acquaintances.”

More.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Emotions | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Nicholas Christakis on the Situation of Epidemics

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 16, 2011

From TED Talks:

After mapping humans’ intricate social networks, Nicholas Christakis and colleague James Fowler began investigating how this information could better our lives. Now, he reveals his hot-off-the-press findings: These networks can be used to detect epidemics earlier than ever, from the spread of innovative ideas to risky behaviors to viruses (like H1N1).

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Emotions, Food and Drug Law, Life, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Social Situation of Breaking Up

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 17, 2010

Rose McDermott, Nicholas Christakis, and James Fowler have recently posted their fascinating paper “Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample Followed for 32 Years” on SSRN.   Here’s the abstract.

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Divorce is the dissolution of a social tie, but it is also possible that attitudes about divorce flow across social ties. To explore how social networks influence divorce and vice versa, we utilize a longitudinal data set from the long-running Framingham Heart Study. We find that divorce can spread between friends, siblings, and coworkers, and there are clusters of divorcees that extend two degrees of separation in the network. We also find that popular people are less likely to get divorced, divorcees have denser social networks, and they are much more likely to remarry other divorcees. Interestingly, we do not find that the presence of children influences the likelihood of divorce, but we do find that each child reduces the susceptibility to being influenced by peers who get divorced. Overall, the results suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages serves to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship, and that, from a policy perspective, divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends far beyond those directly affected.

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You can download the paper for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “Smile If You Love Your Future Relationships,” and “Deterring Divorce through Major League Baseball?.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Conflict, Life | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Social Status Situation of Online Networks

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 16, 2009

Facebook ImageBreeanna Hare of CNN.com has an interesting piece on how membership in online networks may signal social status.  We excerpt the piece below.

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Is there a class divide online? Research suggests yes. A recent study by market research firm Nielsen Claritas found that people in more affluent demographics are 25 percent more likely to be found friending on Facebook, while the less affluent are 37 percent more likely to connect on MySpace.

More specifically, almost 23 percent of Facebook users earn more than $100,000 a year, compared to slightly more than 16 percent of MySpace users. On the other end of the spectrum, 37 percent of MySpace members earn less than $50,000 annually, compared with about 28 percent of Facebook users.

MySpace users tend to be “in middle-class, blue-collar neighborhoods,” said Mike Mancini, vice president of data product management for Nielsen, which used an online panel of more than 200,000 social media users in the United States in August. “They’re on their way up, or perhaps not college educated.”

By contrast, Mancini said, “Facebook [use] goes off the charts in the upscale suburbs,” driven by a demographic that for Nielsen is represented by white or Asian married couples between the ages of 45-64 with kids and high levels of education.

Even more affluent are users of Twitter, the microblogging site, and LinkedIn, a networking site geared to white-collar professionals. Almost 38 percent of LinkedIn users earn more than $100,000 a year.

Nielsen also found a strong overlap between those who use Facebook and those who use LinkedIn, Mancini said.

Nielsen isn’t the first to find this trend. Ethnographer danah boyd, who does not capitalize her name, said she watched the class divide emerge while conducting research of American teens’ use of social networks in 2006.

When she began, she noticed the high school students all used MySpace, but by the end of the school year, they were switching to Facebook.

When boyd asked why, the students replied with reasons similar to Owens: “the features were better; MySpace is dangerous and Facebook is safe; my friends are here,” boyd recalled.

And then, boyd said, “a young woman, living in a small historical town in Massachussetts said to me, ‘I don’t mean to be a racist or anything, but MySpace is like, ghetto.’” For boyd, that’s when it clicked.

“It’s not a matter of choice between Facebook and MySpace, it was a movement to Facebook from MySpace,” she said, a movement that largely included the educated and the upper-class.

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To read the rest click, here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see The Situation of Facebook Jealousy, The Social Awkwardness of Online Snubbing, Virtual Bias, and Internet Disinhibition.

Posted in Choice Myth, Entertainment | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Why Criminals Obey the Law – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 14, 2009

Gun Crimes by Andy Saxton 2006 - flickrAndrew Papachristos, Tracey L. Meares, and Jeffrey Fagan, have posted their terrific paper, “Why Do Criminals Obey the Law? The Influence of Legitimacy and Social Networks on Active Gun Offenders” on SSRN.   Here’s the abstract.

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Recent research on procedural justice and legitimacy suggests that compliance with the law is best secured not by mere threat of force, but by fostering beliefs in the fairness of the legal systems and in the legitimacy of legal actors. To date, however, this research has been based on general population surveys and more banal types of law violating behavior (such as unpaid parking tickets, excessive noise, etc.). Thus, while we know why normal people obey the law, we do not have similar knowledge as it pertains to the population most likely to commit serious violent crimes. This study fills this void by using a unique survey of active offenders in Chicago called the Chicago Gun Project (CGP). Part of a larger evaluation effort of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, the CGP posed a series of individual, neighborhood, legitimacy, and social network questions to a sample of 141 offenders in 52 Chicago neighborhoods. The CGP is designed to understand how the perceptions of the law and social networks of offenders influence their understanding of the law and subsequent law violating behavior. Our findings suggest that while criminals as a whole have negative opinions of the law and legal authority, the sample of gun offenders (just like non-criminals) are more likely to comply with the law when they believe in (a) the substance of the law, and (b) the legitimacy of legal actors, especially the police. Moreover, we find that opinions of compliance to the law are not uniformly distributed across the sample population. In other words, not all criminals are alike in their opinions of the law. Gang members – but especially gang members with social networks saturated with criminal associates – are significantly less likely to view the law and its agents as a legitimate form of authority. However, those individuals (including gang member) with less saturated criminal networks, actually tend to have more positive opinions of the law, albeit these opinions are still overall negative.

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For a related Situationist post see “Tom Tyler on “Strategies of Social Control” - Video.”

Posted in Abstracts, Ideology, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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