Turn On, Boot Up, Drop Out?
Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., is an internist and social scientist who conducts research on social factors that affect health, health care, and longevity. He is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; and Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Christakis' current work is principally concerned with health and social networks, and specifically with how ill health, disability, health behavior, health care, and death in one person can influence the same phenomena in a person's social network. Most recently, Dr. Christakis has been exploring the joint genetic and socio-environmental determinants of the formation and operation of human social networks. His 2009 book, co-authored with James H. Fowler and published by Little, Brown and Company, is called "Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives."
Follow him on Twitter @NAChristakis
Question: Will the Web ever fundamentally reshape our social interactions?
Nicholas Christakis: Well I mean ask yourself, I mean do you think that we are different in our sociality after the invention of the telephone as before? You know we’ve only had a telephone for a hundred years. Are we a completely different species than the Victorians? You know, do we have different desires? Are we… No. And now can we communicate more efficiently, transact business and so forth? Yes. And what is also ironic and we discuss this in the book is the ways in which when the telephone was invented and introduced all the same kind of concerns about you know the spread of inappropriate information or people predating on other people or the intrusiveness of the technology. You know the quietness of the dinner hour would be interrupted by the phone ringing off the hook. All of those concerns were articulated just like we talk about the Internet now. And so completely acknowledge that it’s astonishing what the Internet offers. I just am not convinced that the Internet fundamentally is changing how we think or how we really interact with each other. It’s giving us additional ways of interacting, but I don’t think it fundamentally changes friendship, romance, love, violence, all these very deeply human traits.
Recorded March 31, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
When the telephone was invented, there were similar fears that human interaction would suffer, but neither it, nor the internet, changes fundamentally human traits like love and friendship.