Feeling Lonely? Take A Bath!
Loneliness can be such a downer. When introduced into a social network, loneliness has been shown to be downright contagious, according to a study done in 2009 by researchers Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University and James Fowler at the University of California, San Diego. After reviewing data from a 60-year study of over 5,000 people in Framingham, Massachusetts, the researchers, along with psychologist John Cacioppo, found that you have a 50 percent high chance of feeling lonely if you connect with someone who is lonely.
Although the study was largely done on interpersonal networking in real life (or IRL as we online people like to refer to it,) the same rules hold true for interactions on online social networks.
As a form of social disease, researchers found that loneliness radiates outward from its emotional ground zero, to second-level relationships and beyond. As your time with a lonely person infects you emotionally, you in turn infect others with the malaise through your words (or lack of them.) At this second degree of separation, people around you have a 25 percent chance of feeling more lonely, and they in turn infect others at a rate of 15 percent.
With six degrees of separation to all of us, perhaps this is why we don't see Kevin Bacon smiling as much as he ought to these days?
It wasn't that long ago that we began to truly understand the spread of contagion, and how to stop it. We developed vaccines (thank you Dr. Jonas Salk and many other virologists) to stave off the spread of bad bugs from person to person, and worked diligently to teach everyone about personal hygiene (thank you Sesame Street.) Washing our hands and good bathing habits have done wonders toward keeping most of us alive for a lot longer.Continued on the next page