Nicholas Christakis: The hidden influence of social networks

“Our experience of the world depends on the actual structure of the networks in which we’re residing and on all the kinds of things that ripple and flow through the network. Now, the reason, I think, that this is the case is that human beings assemble themselves and form a kind of superorganism. Now, a superorganism is a collection of individuals which show or evince behaviors or phenomena that are not reducible to the study of individuals and that must be understood by reference to, and by studying, the collective.” – Nicholas Christakis

CONNECTIONS MATTER: Our social infrastructure forms a complex, living, and adaptive organism capable of transmitting an experience or interpretation at least three degrees from the point of origination within ourselves. This transmission is not unidirectional. As we transmit, we are simultaneously receiving feedback on our transmissions which are the interpretations and experiences of others to whom we are connected.

Our transmissions are evolved and altered by the new data we have received. This ebb and flow across the intersections of our social infrastructure make critical an understanding of both the presence of quality relationships and the impact of the infrastructure within those relationships.

While a timebank can augment that social infrastructure and make more visible opportunities to develop robust, meaningful interactions within a community, it requires that we think differently about how our communities are formed. We must honor the realization that we are a community of circles within circles. The intersections we have with others overlap and intertwine create this dense social superorganism. By employing a timebank, we can deploy resources within that superorganism which will serve the cultivation of greater social and communal equity.

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