November 17, 2010

CNN: Do tweets change your behavior?

A CNN column by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, “Do tweets change your behavior?”, has prompted a new round of discussion about the role of online social networks in American life.

The article details an experiment which supposedly found that I was more influential on Twitter than Alyssa Milano and Tim O’Reilly.  I’m flattered, but I sincerely doubt that (and you can read in the comments or in this thoughtful essay why the experiment was flawed).

What I’m really interested in, though, is the basic premise of Christakis and Fowler’s recent research: Networks magnify whatever they are seeded with, for good or for ill. Behavior change, including altruistic behavior, spreads. The more help you get, the more likely you will be to help someone else.

That’s where Pew Internet’s research comes in:  What is the reach and scope of online social networks? What do we know about the people who use them? How are different areas of life being affected by this growing inter-connectedness — politics, news, health, education, families?

Learn more about what we are finding out: