Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (Google eBook)
Your colleague's husband's sister can make you fat, even if you don't know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Christakis and Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide.
In CONNECTED, the authors explain why emotions are contagious, how health behaviors spread, why the rich get richer, even how we find and choose our partners. Intriguing and entertaining, CONNECTED overturns the notion of the individual and provides a revolutionary paradigm-that social networks influence our ideas, emotions, health, relationships, behavior, politics, and much more. It will change the way we think about every aspect of our lives.
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The raise of the internet has precipitated the increase of public's interest in networks and many books have come out in recent years that explore this new fascination. Most of these books, however, focus on some very trite and visible aspect of the web networks, and don't delve deeper into the more subtle and nonobvious properties of networks. In the light of that the strength of "Connected" is that it heavily relies on well established scientific research and presents it in an accessible fashion that still does full justice to the topic. Both authors are themselves prominent researchers in the field, and this fact helps with the choice and presentation of topics. The particular focus on social networks is very timely in the light of recent explosion of online social networks. However, social networks have been around for a very long time. In fact, there have been some evolutionary theories that suggest that our rise as a species has been to a large extent spurred by the need to manage large social networks.
The book provides many interesting and nontrivial insights into what sorts of social networks are most beneficial in certain circumstances, and which ones on the other hand can have the most deleterious effects, such as in cases of spreading of diseases. One of the more pleasant aspects of this book has been the more positive attitude towards the role of religion in society that is not simplistic and provides us with some useful new insights and ways of looking at religion. For instance, from the purely social-networking point of view God can be viewed as a node in a network that is equally distant from all other nodes - individual believers in this case. This provides us with a useful new paradigm, and it would be interesting to see if other social researchers would employ it in their investigations and analyses of religion in the upcoming years.
If you are looking for a well-researched and accessible book on social networks, this is probably the best one that has been on the market thus far.