The father of American psychology William James once said “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep”.
The notion that those around us influence our life isn’t something new, yet it is frequently underestimated. As Tom Rath, the author of “Eat Move Sleep” indicated, emotional dispatch of a single person has an impact on hundreds, even thousands of people.
Nicolas A. Christakis, current professor and one of the directors of Yale Institute of Network Researches has worked as an intern in 1990s. While looking after patients in Chicago he discovered the phenomenon later called as widowhood effect– death of a close person negatively affects other members of the family. On one of the simple days, the phone call shed a light to the unknown facet of this scientific fact. That day he visited an old lady whose daughter had been taking care of her. Once Dr. Christakis left them, someone called him. It was the best friend of the husband of that old lady’s daughter. The daughter was significantly depressed by the illness of her mother and as a result her husband also suffered. The calling man was deeply concerned about the psychical and mental health state of his friend. This event made Christakis realize that widowhood effect could be observed not only among several people but the whole network.
Following the research on this topic, Dr. Christakis came to the conclusion that, in addition to huge events such as, promotion, marriage or death, little things like a single smile were fundamental in the relationships between humans. Habits, preferences, mood also determined how people around us would feel themselves. In short, literary everything affected us whether we are acquainted with them or not. He proved that friends of our friends’ friends whom we may have never encountered possess power on us. It resembles a chain: one smile addressed to the stranger in the street may cause his mood to boost and eventually, he would send positive vibes eluting others.
According to psychologists, people mostly determine how to treat others based on the reactions of other people. If you are in an environment or around a group of people who love you, strangers will likely treat you with the same love and admiration. The other side is true too: If you hang out with “frenemies”, it is extremely feasible that those subtle cues will poison the way others react to you. Not being accustomed to this trick, people may end up in the perpetuating vicious cycle of toxic environment.
In 2008, Christakis together with sociologist and political scientist James Fowler found out, while investigating the correlation between relationships and happiness, that one of the major factors was distance between people. If a friend of yours is about 1 km away from you, you will strongly feel his emotional state. If the distance is up until 3 km, the impact deteriorates to 20%. In other words, the farther someone lives from you, the weaker his influence on you is.
The controversial result was derived from the research of Princeton University scientists. In 2013 they observed news feeds of approximately 689 000 Facebook users (probably without their permission) and deduced inference that when the number of positive news accelerates, people began posting more corresponding posts and comments, or vice versa: whenever bad news augmented it boosted up the amount of negative posts.
All of the aforesaid works testify the fact our network has pivotal impact on our life. Everyone, no matter strangers, friends or family, affect our well-being. It means that humans are capable of controlling and changing their lives by simply adding another enjoyable hour spent with cheerful people.
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