The Influence of Social Networks

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Category: Societal Issues

Date Submitted: 09/13/2011 08:02 PM

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Let’s for the next 5 min take a look at the world at the new way - like pairs of people connected to each other.

widowhood effect

So, social networks are these intricate things of beauty, and they're so elaborate and so complex and so ubiquitous, in fact, that one has to ask what purpose they serve. Why are we embedded in social networks? I mean, how do they form? How do they operate? And how do they effect us?

We are all embedded in this broad set of connections with each other.

it had become trendy to speak about the "obesity epidemic."

began to wonder whether obesity really was epidemic, and could it spread from person to person

For me, this story begins about 15 years ago, when I was a hospice doctor at the University of Chicago. And I was taking care of people who were dying, and their families, in the South Side of Chicago. And I was observing what happened to people and their families over the course of their terminal illness. And in my lab, I was studying the widower effect, which is a very old idea in the social sciences, going back 150 years, known as "dying of a broken heart." So, when I die, my wife's risk of death can double, for instance, in the first year. And I had gone to take care of one particular patient, a woman who was dying of dementia. And, in this case, unlike this couple, she was being cared for by her daughter. And the daughter was exhausted from caring for her mother. And the daughter's husband, he also was sick from his wife's exhaustion. And I was driving home one day, and I get a phone call from the husband's friend, calling me because he was depressed about what was happening to his friend. So here I get this call from this random guy that's having an experience that's being influenced by people at some social distance.

And so I suddenly realized two very simple things. First, the widowhood effect was not restricted to husbands and wives. And second, it was not restricted to pairs of people. And I started to see the...