Happy Memorial Day everyone. I wanted to do a quick post this holiday weekend after an article in The Washington Post caught my attention this morning. Researchers have discovered that social networks can have a strong influence on members even if those members are only virtually connected. For example, networks where contacts are trying to lose weight or quit smoking were more successful than going it alone. From the article…”studies and others are fueling a growing recognition that many behaviors are swayed by social networks in ways that have not been fully understood.”
What I find interesting is that the article spins the story positively in that health or overall human improvement can be gained from the social networks. I believe that to be the case of people over 25, but in the case of teenagers this can have the exact opposite effect. When I was at SXSW there was a panel on “What teens do online” that confirmed my belief that teens are all about “one-upping” each other via photos, videos, and other content via a social network. So while a 25 year old may use a social network to help them quit smoking, a 16 year old may discover drinking or drugs.
Now before you accuse me of being an old curmudgeon, and that last paragraph I wrote makes me feel that way. I think this study actually is great proof that the power of social networks can change the way that people on the planet interact with each other, and breaks down socio-economic barriers. We certainly have seen some of this coming out of China since the earthquake.