Social Networks: Helpful or Harmful?
Believe it or not, our well-being is tied to the health of those around us. Even when it’s difficult to see, our social networks are ever-present. Your social networks have the power to influence your well-being for good and for bad.
Social networks set our habits and norms. Much like how our own relationships are surprisingly powerful, we too can impact others. We can “pay it forward” by way of helping or “infect“ by harming. There is an element of “contagion” to what we do—a ripple effect causing a chain reaction.
Social networks can be helpful and harmful
Helpful. Social networks can be helpful when you’re trying to do something good for your well-being. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, surround yourself with those who have kicked the habit. They can share their experiences and provide the support or motivation you may need.
Harmful. Social networks can be harmful when they lead you to make poor decisions. For example, if you’re out to lunch with a co-worker, their decision to order a soda may influence you to order one as well—even if you intended to order water.
Remember that the goal of building your social network is to reduce your stress level, not add to it. Watch for situations that seem to drain your energy. For example, avoid spending too much time with someone who is constantly negative and critical. Likewise, try spending more time with people who make you feel happy and vibrant.
In the WebMD article Good Friends are Good for You Tom Valeo reviews the results of multiple studies examining the effects of supportive social networks on health and well-being.