Obesity, politics, STDs flow in social networks

Source: CNN, October 2009

Professors from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, suggest that social networks, online and offline, are essential to understanding human behavior and possibly health trends. They suggest this and more in their book, “Connected,” published in 2009.
The professors (well-known researchers in the field) show that people can influence one another’s behaviors within three degrees of separation (friend, friend’s friend, friend’s friend’s friend). This is in part due to behavioral imitation, or copying what others are doing, and to norms, which influence what you think is acceptable. Others’ behaviors can be beneficial or detrimental to one’s health since they can influence the prevalence of health issues like obesity and sexually transmitted diseases. And the impact can be just as real online.
The professors suggest people’s online social networks (e.g., Facebook) are similar to their real-world networks—online and offline, people average six close friends and between 110 and 150 “social” friends. Since social networks online provide an additional venue for humans to express their natural tendency to connect to others, websites like Facebook will likely stick around for the foreseeable future.