We are socialized by flocks — but do we also heal and carve behaviors from the same social movement?

Two scientists believe the online flock mentality is a sophisticated form of healing the inner self by mirroring socially acceptable norms and values in a safe, generally anonymous, environment:

For the most part, being part of a social network is good for you, research suggests. For example, a study in this month’s Scientific American Mind finds that social support and social networking offer benefits, from additional resilience to greater life satisfaction to reducing the risk of health problems. Other studies in the past two years have found that feeling like a part of a larger group helps in stroke recovery and memory retention and boosts overall well-being.

“In many ways, human beings behave like flocks of birds or schools of fish,” says Nicholas Christakis, a physician and Harvard University sociologist who is co-author of a new book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, out today.

“So many things we normally think of as individualistic — like what our body size is, or what we think about a political topic, or whether we are happy — are actually collective phenomena,” says Christakis, 47.

There is a fascinating trend that suggests kids between the ages of 10-14 use the internet more than they watch TV.

83% of those children spend an hour on the internet, while only 68% of the same age group spend the same amount of time watching television.

We believe that is a good childhood trend — except when we confess what we already suspect: Traditional tube television is on its way out as habits and conditions turn to the “monitor web watching” of entertainment — as exampled in Comcast buying NBC — to stream broadcast shows over the internet to bypass the traditional stationed-owned network of brick and mortar affiliates in favor of the bottomless grand ethereal.


  1. It will be interesting to see how these kids will develop — will they be snarkier because of web sites like Reddit and Digg? Will they be more knowledgeable? More literate because of McSweeneys? Makes one wonder. Let’s hope none go the route of Tiger Woods.

  2. I have a feeling, Gordon, nothing will change. The kids will get stupider — each generation gets dumber than the one before — and the boob tube will be replaced by the holographic internet.

  3. I think we’re pretty stuck with entertainment from now on. Too bad it can’t be used more for teaching than just wasting time. Is there a Sesame Street for adults?

  4. That’s an excellent question, Anne. I would guess many people would say “Wikipedia” is the Sesame Street for children… while others might argue Hulu really is…

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