My watchword for 2009 is 'nourish' - relationships, oneself, and one's community as a whole. And yesterday turned out to be a good example of nourishment in practice. My family held a little farewell party for me because tomorrow I'm departing for a four-month research trip to California. Most of us are pretty connected and in touch a lot by email, Facebook, texting and phonecalls, but it's a long time since we were all physically together in one person's home and it was a really lovely and warm occasion.
I was reminded of it today when I saw a tweet from Tim O'Reilly pointing to a post by Stowe Boyd commenting on research on Social Networks and Happiness conducted by Nicholas A Christakis and James H Fowler reported at The Edge.
It explains how posting smiling pictures of oneself strengthens online interactions. Here's an excerpt:
Notice how strongly the blue nodes and the yellow nodes cluster together, indicating large-scale structure of smiling in the online network. Moreover, people who do not smile seem to be located more peripherally in the network. In fact, statistical analysis of the network shows that people who smile tend to have more friends (smiling gets you an average of one extra friend, which is pretty good considering that people only have about six close friends). Not only that, but the statistical analyses confirm that those who smile are measurably more central to the network compared to those who do not smile. That is, if you smile, you are less likely to be on the periphery of the online world.
It thus seems to be the case, online as well as offline, that when you smile, the world smiles with you.
This makes a lot of sense, so in the interests of nourishing my social networking practice I'm replacing my Facebook profile picture with one which is almost embarrassing in its smileyness...