Behavior is Contagious
We are all social creatures participating in a variety of human networks like school, work or neighborhood associations. These social networks have characteristics that define them and the individuals who participate in them.
The old adage of “birds of a feather flock together” comes to mind. These networks have value and purpose—they provide benefits to the collection of individuals and ultimately the ecosystem in which they are embedded, i.e., the local community.
Understanding systems, like social networks and how they impact us, is important to making meaningful social change. By understanding the dynamics of a social network and the interactions of its members, it is possible to direct the network’s activities toward significant positive change.
WiseTribe builds positive social networks
Our organization believes systems thinking that comprehends the complexity of social networks can lead to new insights and understanding which generate beneficial change in our families, neighborhoods, and schools. Behavior in a social network is contagious.
“Leading by example” and “learning by doing” in schools, student clubs, and after school activities allows us to move the needle, to change behavior and open new perspectives by relying on the relationships among people.
When connected to a value system such as sustainability, healthy eating, and continuous learning, the network can flex, bend, and achieve new levels of benefit for the ecosystem or community in which it operates.
Being responsible to the Whole
We have often heard the African proverb that “It takes a village to raise a child”. In like manner, the various social networks impact the the quality of life and the success of those who are part of the network. Each member bears some responsibility to the whole. Low level participation or anti-social behavior will reduce the strength, health, and wellbeing of the network. And the opposite is true, active participation and cooperation lead to a healthy, growing network with favorable impact.
It is apparent that social networks without active member participation wither and disappear: schools are closed, organizations run out of money, and membership dissipates. Without the collective experience, ties among members, and emotional bonds continuously being formed, the social network loses its relevance and becomes inoperative.
The Role of the Individual – What you can do
But if individuals in the network contribute to the whole, share their values, and provide purpose to the whole, then the network (school, association, business) can thrive.
Positive behavior is contagious, it infects the whole with a beneficial mindset. By increasing the social capital of the network through collective experience and learning, the whole is strengthened. Its purpose and impact are focused and amplified throughout the community. The individual achieves the benefit of connected lives and at the same time benefits others in the network by sharing her or his values.
To learn more about how social networks influence our lives as individuals, check out this 20 minutes TED Talk by Nicholas Christakis.