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Social Networks and “Happiness Clusters”

It turns out that happiness really is contagious. Need proof? Nicholas Christakis and James Folwer recently published a paper in the British Medical...

John Keehler
John Keehler on December 10, 2008.

It turns out that happiness really is contagious. Need proof? Nicholas Christakis and James Folwer recently published a paper in the British Medical Journal, suggesting that offline social networks have “happy” and “unhappy” clusters. In that study, they found that a person’s happiness is related to the happiness of their friends, their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends… in other words, up to 3 degrees of separation. In addition, they also found that happy people were more likely to be at the center of their offline social networks, and that each additional happy friend increases your chance of being happy by about 9%. So what about online social networks?

A recent article on The Third Culture gives some insight into how Christakis and Folwer are using Facebook profiles to examine happiness clusters.

One of our efforts has involved the examination of a group of 1,700 college students who are interconnected in Facebook. We examined these students’ online profiles. We noted who their friends were and we also studied their photographs.

…statistical analysis of the network shows that people who smile tend to have more friends (smiling gets you an average of one extra friend, which is pretty good considering that people only have about six close friends). Not only that, but the statistical analyses confirm that those who smile are measurably more central to the network compared to those who do not smile. That is, if you smile, you are less likely to be on the periphery of the online world.

The Third Culture – Social Networks and Happiness

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John Keehler

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John is the Director of Interactive Strategy for Click Here, the digital arm of The Richards Group ad agency in Dallas, TX. In addition to posting at PSFK, John publishes his personal blog, RandomCulture.com, as well as a popular podcast about the ABC hit TV show LOST, which can be found at LOSTCasts.com.

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