According to an article in New Scientist, recent research shows that our moods are far more strongly influenced by those around us than we tend to think.
The moods of people three degrees of separation away (who we have never met) pass through our social network to affect us.
I’m affected by the moods of friends of friends of friends, so maybe I need to start changing my friends?
And, how many friends do I change?
Using the pyramid marketing model if I only have six friends, I am affected by two hundred and sixteen people.
Are they happy people, or are they suicidally depressed? I hope not and there is always chocolate!
I am certainly aware that I spend less and less time around negative people these days, I even find I rush to get them off the phone, especially if I feel they are contaminating my mood.
How on Earth do I find out what degree of contamination they are bringing to the conversation?
Perhaps I need a check list for people before I keep them on the phone? How’s your Mum? How’s your brother? Done anything interesting? So you went to dinner with Dave? How was he? Happy?
The article goes on to say that a whole range of phenomena are also transmitted through networks of friends in ways that are not entirely understood.
The author talks about happiness and depression, obesity, drinking and smoking habits and following my experience meeting friends of friends over the New Year, it would appear to be true.
No-one drank alcohol at the party I went to on New Years day and no-one smoked, only the fire!
I am less inclined to agree with the idea that a taste for certain music permeates social structure, the idea of Mariah Carey screeching about Christmas fills me with dread, as does Donald Fagen’s individual harmonising of every syllable, yet some of my friends like such nonsense.
Why Mariah Carey (or any other soul singer) feels the need to do her vocal exercises in public I will never know. I suppose the research isn’t taking into account the kind of music friend’s friends are actually making? Perhaps they should be counted as colleagues and they are not really friends?
What the researcher discovered is that people tend to be clustered together. I am interested in self-development and I’m in control of my life. This seems to be reflected in my friendships.
Perhaps my social influence is going to make Robbie Williams happier? He’ll wake up one morning in a really good mood with an overwhelming feeling of security and won’t know why!
My pleasure Robbie; though you really must meet Emily Gordon…
Then, I made the immediate assumption that it would be down to the ‘law of attraction’ and that happy people would be magnets for other happy people.
The article seems to refute that idea, saying that actions and feelings can be as contagious as a virus and simply spread through a social network regardless of who we choose as friends.
The most amazing aspect of the article and why I initially picked up on it, is the idea that having an autistic child in your community increases the probability of your own child being diagnosed with autism.
I wonder if the same can be said for adults?
When I explain Aspergers to someone I meet and hand them a leaflet on it, the amount of people who look up from what they are reading and say “I think this could apply to me” is astounding.
Is it because of the tendency to gravitate towards similar people? Or am I a contagion for Autism in my circle of friends? Friend’s friends? Friend’s friend’s friends?
And if this is the case which bugger caused it in me 🙂
Perhaps at this point I should give them a test to see if they can stand listening to Mariah Carey?
Bottom line is that our friend’s friend’s friends are happy.
If you are interested in mastering happiness, I recommend you read the whole article here.
See you on the other side of the looking glass (bring a positive friend)