We're all embedded in vast social networks of friends, family, co-workers and more. Nicholas Christakis tracks how a wide variety of traits — from happiness to obesity — can spread from person to person, showing how your location in the network might impact your life in ways you don't even know.
His work shows how phenomena as diverse as obesity, smoking, emotions, ideas, germs, and altruism can spread through our social ties, and how genes can partially underlie our creation of social ties to begin with. His work also sheds light on how we might take advantage of an understanding of social networks to make the world a better place.
Once you start mapping these networks — they’re so intricate and so beautiful and so interesting — you just can’t help but wonder why we humans make them. Why does a spider weave its web? Why does the web have a particular kind of shape? It’s not a coincidence. You look at these webs and you think, “My God, what purpose do they serve? And, how do they affect us?”
Watch his TedTalk presentation, "The Hidden Influence of Social Networks".