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Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives Hardcover – September 28, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Harvard professor and health care policy specialist Christakis (Death Foretold: Prophecy and Prognosis in Medical Care) became interested in social connectivity when observing that the mortality rate of spouses spike after a partner passes away. Christakis sought out a collaboration with Fowler, a health systems and political scientist, and together they compare topology (the hows of a given structure) across different social networks to better explain how participation and positioning enhances the effectiveness of an individual, and why the "whole" of a network is "greater than the sum of its parts." Five basic rules describe the relationship between individuals and their networks-including mutual adaptation, the influence of friends and friends' friends, the network's "life of its own"-but the results do more than promote the good of the group: they also spread contagions; create "epidemics" of obesity, smoking and substance abuse; disseminate fads and markets; alter voting patterns; and more. A thorough but popular take on a complex phenomenon, this volume offers an entertaining guide to the mechanics and importance of human networking. 13 b/w illustrations, 8-page color insert.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"[In a category of] works of brilliant originality that can stimulate and enlighten and can sometimes even change the way we understand the world."―The New York Times
"An entertaining guide to the mechanics and importance of human networking."―Publishers Weekly
"Engaging and insightful...sure-to-be a blockbuster...Connected succeeds in connecting with its audience."―SeedMagazine.com
"Illuminating...The authors excel at drawing out the devil in the detail. [Connected] has profound implications."―New Scientist
"Connected explores the startling intricacies of social networks."―O, The Oprah Magazine
"The book has all sorts of interesting information about how our friends influence our lives, for better and for worse."―MarieClaire.com
"Connected argues convincingly that it's not enough to understand how individuals behave. The book details examples of how individual behaviors affect other members of a social network."-ScienceNews.com
"This wonderful book by Christakis and Fowler could well be one of the most important works of the decade. In a clear and engaging way, the authors apply their creative and provocative findings on social networks to understanding not only our social relationships but also the forces that shape our world. Full of fascinating stories and examples, this book is essential in understanding our very nature. A must read."―Ed Diener, Joseph Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology University of Illinois and author of Happiness
"Fascinating... the dozens of interconnected stories of research findings by Chriastkis and Fowler and others leave me eager to learn about the next wave of research in this area."―Andrew Gelman, author of Red State, Blue State
"What makes us human -- for good and bad -- is our social nature. Nowhere is this complex, wonderful, and sometimes dark part of us more clearly revealed than in Connected. In a social world exploding with new ways to interact, Connected is a user's guide for ourselves in the 21st century."―Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics and author of Predictably Irrational
"A God's-eye view of social relationships that may make you dizzy. Every business leader, teacher, and parent should see their life from this vantage."―Chip Heath, author Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
"An old adage tells us, 'You can't chose your family.' After reading Connected, you will find that you can't choose many things in your life. Others choose them for you! Christakis and Fowler take a fresh look at an old idea: that who we know matters. Connected is a lively, well-written account of social networks and their power to shape our lives. Complicated ideas become easy to understand and the mysteries of science unfold in front of your eyes. The world becomes smaller and more meaningful after reading this engaging book."―Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for a Day
"From health and happiness to fads and financial markets, Christakis and Fowler take us on a dazzling tour of the world of social networks. And in showing how these networks matter in our individual lives, the authors also make the deeper point that "network thinking" is the key to understanding how all our lives fit together."-Duncan Watts, author of Six Degrees
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Top customer reviews
The book was just filled with highly interesting facts about how your network influences you. Also, how you can influence your network. It also matters the type of network that you have. Are you connected to lots of people that aren't connected to each other, weak ties, or are you connected to lots of people that are all connected to one another, strong ties. Each of these types of networks influences you differently. Your behavior within a network is probably following one of three paths; cooperator, you're willing to help others, free rider, you're letting others do the heavy lifting, enforcer, you're making sure everyone follows the rules. Your behavior is also likely to shift between those roles depending on who you're interacting with and when.
In short, a fascinating book. I do have a nit to pick with it though. At the end of it all, I have a great set of information about what a strong network would look like. I get a good sense of why I would want to have a strong network. Nothing about how to really get a strong network other than making sure my friends are connected with my friends and that my friends, and as much as possible their friends and their friends, are all on a positive path. Right. I'm sure that's easy to work out. Guidance around this network thing would have been nice.
As they observe in the Preface, "Scientists, philosophers, and others who study society have generally divided into two camps: those who think they are in control of their destinies, and those who believe that social forces (ranging from a lack of good public education to the presence of a corrupt government) are responsible for what happens to us." They think a third factor is missing from this debate: "our connections to others matter most, and by linking the study of individuals to the study of groups, the science of social networks can explain a lot about human experience." I agree.
This book is the result of what Christakis and Fowler have learned thus far from their research and I think they make a substantial contribution to a discussion of a question that has continued for several thousand years: "What makes us uniquely human?" They remain convinced that to know who we are, we must first understand how we are connected.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Christakis and Fowler's coverage.
o Rules of Life in the Network (Pages 16-26)
o Emotional Contagion (37-40)
o The Spread of Happiness (49-54)
o Big Fish, Little Pond (71-75)
o Dying of a Broken Heart? (81-86)
o Changing What We Do, or Changing What We Think? (112-115)
o Moody Markets (148-153)
o Three Degrees of Information Flow (153-156)
o Networking Creativity (162-164)
o Real Politics in a Social World (184-187)
o The Network Architecture of Political Influence (202-204)
o The Ancient Ties That Bind (213-217)
o Networks Are in Our Genes Too (232-235)
o A Brain for Social Networks (240-243)
o The Human Superorganism (289-292)
As some of these subjects suggest, there are striking similarities between the nature and extent of connections within the human brain and those that occur within social organizations such as Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I eagerly await breakthrough insights in months and years to come that increase our understanding of metacognition even more.
During a conversation near the conclusion of the book in the Reading group Guide, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler are asked this question: "What particular aspects of social networks are you currently researching? Is there anything exciting coming to light?" Their response:
"We are especially intrigued by the idea the idea that evolution may have shaped the networks humans form with one another, and we think this might give us a clue about some important questions: Why do we help each other so much compared to other species? What is the reason for the spark in love at first sight?"
Also, the point made by the authors about the impact others have on us and the impact we have on others was intriguing, especially that "You do not have to be a superstar to have this power. All you need to do is connect" (p. 305). Our connections can thus either help promote or degrade the common good. How important it is to know that we can make the world better through our connections with others promoting things of value such as truth, beauty, and justice (those traits upheld by the Greeks). There is value in building community.