This post is inspired by a short review of the book “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, who also wrote “Six degrees of separation”.
“Connected” basically is a study presenting the thought-provoking, and sometimes counter-intuitive, ideas on social networks. Even though the focus is mainly on offline social networks we are all members of, it can perfectly fit to online communities and actually manages to explain very meaningful the powers behind the New Human-driven Hyperconnected World (that term is totally mine invention, don’t blame the authors of the study).
While the observation that there are six degrees of separation between any two people applies to how connected we are, the observation that there are three degrees of influence applies to how contagious we are. Contagious not in the sense of touch but in the sense of thoughts and real-time action. They say that, “Overall, the evidence from real-world networks suggests that online networks can be used to enhance what flows between real-world friends and family, but we do not know yet whether the Internet will increase the speed or scope of social contagions in general.”
Does it sound too complex already? So imagine the world we live in as a huge human superorganism, where we are all connected to each other in different communities – offline and online and that huge grid of connections is constantly moving according to all small new connections or big break ups inside it. So as small as you think you are, now you have the ability through new technology to make big changes and to demand much more and actually get it. Think about that the big decision- makers where always the people with many connections. Isn’t that another self-proving argument how dependent are we of the different communities we are members of?
Networks might help explain why the rich are getting richer (the rich attract more friends, and having more friends is an aid in getting rich), and that political polarization (a bad thing in the eyes of many) increases political participation (a good thing to most).
As far as I am concerned that means you can be much more influential now than you think and that belonging together in a community was always part of our nature. The difference now is that bonds within the community are no more place-limited or hierarchy build. And the most interesting part is yet to come. Of course, the bigger the influence, the bigger the responsibility you bear. And remember, your village is not only global anymore, it’s online.