It's no secret many of us are struggling with isolation and mental health challenges during Covid. But what we are not talking about enough is the contagion of networks. Being around supportive networks is just so important. And that means online networks too.
Similarly, there is much talk about online trolling and bullying increasing, however not enough discussion from health experts talking to the negative impact of this behaviour on victims. Bottom line; it impacts our health.
Avoiding toxic situations and pursing activities that bring happiness and joy are things we must all pay attention and integrate as part of daily Self Care practices. Sometimes that may mean as well staying away from toxic online activity which can be incredibly difficult when you are being attacked or smeared.
Not only do the people directly around us influence our wellbeing, so does our friends' independent network of relationships. According to a Harvard study, our wellbeing is dependent on our entire network.
This research, which was based on a 30+ longitudinal study of more than 12,000 people who were all part of one interconnected network, found that your odds of being happy increase by 15% if a direct connection in your social network is happy. in other words, having direct and frequent social contact with someone who has high wellbeing dramatically boosts your chances of being happy.
Even more critical is the degree to which indirect connections influence our wellbeing. The Harvard study found a similar effect for second hand associations,
So if a friend of your direct connections is happy, the odds of your friend being happy increase by 15% - and the odds of you being happy increase by 10% even if you don't know or interact with this secondhand connection.
Even your friend's friend's friends influences your wellbeing. According to the massive study of social networks, you are 6% more likely to be happy if a connection three degrees removed from you is happy.
While a 6% increase in happiness might not seem that significant, it actually is when compared to the effect of having a higher income.
According to this research, an increase of about $10,000 in annual income was associated with just a 2% increased likelihood of being happy. This led the study's authors to conclude that the wellbeing of friends and relatives is a more effective predictor of happiness than earning more money.
As Harvard researcher Nicholas Christakis summarised: 'People are embedded in social networks and the health and wellbeing of one person affects the health and wellbeing of others.... Human happiness is not merely the province of isolated individuals."
Christakis has also explored how our social connections influence our habits, behaviours and health.
Fowler. J.H & Christakis, N.A (2008). Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framington heart study. BMJ, 337, a2338+
Christakis, N.A & Fowler, J.H. (2009). Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives. New York: Little, Brown and Company.