Friends Matter : Social Networks Shape Our Perception

by The Happy Rock on June 18, 2007

This post will be part of a larger series called Friends Matter, which will discuss some of the ways that our social networks can support or hamper our personal journeys.monkey family hug.jpg

“She has been starting to run with a bad crowd.” At some point we have all heard a parent respond to a question about their teenager’s objectionable behavior with this common phrase. The underlying principle is that ‘who we associate with can play a big role in our choices and actions’. Ironically, we don’t see parents responding with “He has fallen in with a good crowd” when someone complements their son’s good grades, but we will leave that for another day. Parents believe rightly that a child’s friends have a huge impact on their choices, although somewhere along the line we tend to think we matured into free thinking adults. The truth is we need to be aware of the influence that can come our social networks.

Picture a single guy, Jim, who has friends that go into debt for very nice items, such as sports cars, plasma TVs, and golf memberships. Normal to Jim is a world in which people should have these items. Jim’s opinion of what is ‘normal’ is very much influenced by the people around him on a daily basis, and to a lesser extent by the people and images that bombard his life from outside his normal routine. How hard do you think it will be for Jim to get to a place were he desires to be debt free? He is stuck needing items that he can not afford to fit in with his peers, or he must break ‘tradition’ and risk not fitting in. How hard would it be if he started to date a woman who didn’t own a credit card and only bought things that she could afford? Much easier. The take away is that the values of the people that surround us inevitably bleed into our own philosophies.

I read a comment on the topic of getting rid of TV from the household that echoed this principle very well. Just one Christmas after removing the TV from the house, the parents were amazed at how content their children were with the meager gifts they could afford. The parents had removed part of their children’s social network that provided them with a significant amount of input. The images on TV had bred a discontent for the lifestyle that the parents could provide. TV wasn’t encouraging the children down a path that meshed with the parent’s vision, so it was cut off.

A good place to start can be to ask ourselves these two questions: What are the players in our social network saying to us? Does it align with my vision for the future?

Here is a quick application from my life. Part of my dreams includes working from home and starting my own business, yet all of the people around me are in 9-5 jobs. Although I enjoy my circle of friends, I would be ‘abnormal’ with regards to my career vision. This says to me that I should augment my network with some entrepreneurs and other people who have transitioned to earning a living from home.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

tehnyit June 18, 2007 at 10:52 am

Great insight. I am reading Robert Sutton’s book on bad workplace behaviour and just completed the part about how that if we are surrounded by jerks at a workplace, we will also end up being a jerk as well. This sort of behaviour extremely evident in animals that herd or have a social structure, or which we are one. Herd Instinct or mentality.
I believe that for us to be successful in whatever we want to do, we should mix with the people that are successful in same endeavour as well.


Double Eagle June 20, 2007 at 10:44 am

This is a great look at something that people don’t really think about much.

From an early age, while many of my peers went out of their way to build a large circle of friends, I tended to try and develop a *strong* circle of friends.

Consequently, I have a small circle of friends that I trust and rely on and who can say the same about me.

I don’t consciously pick friends or limit the number of friends that I have (I have lots of friendly acquaintances), but I feel like I naturally gravitate toward quality people whose personalities align with my own. Most importantly, it becomes a tight-knit network of people who are almost like family.

I had never really looked at it in detail until reading this post, but I feel like I’m fortunate to have stumbled upon this way of doing things at an early age.


mrp2 September 14, 2007 at 3:17 am

Hey cool pa, i saw so many blog sites but none of them discussed about friendship, yes in our life, god gave so many precious things, in that one is friendship . As you said about parents, yes i agree some of the them belive but most of them not.

i have lots of friends in my schools and college but some of them only keeping touch with me , i trust my friends , hope they also. you know one in friendship main thing is trusting , we should trust each others. we have so many relationship in our life but they are never equal to friends.
we can discuss more about friendship because its endless. but i think now its enough
I love your blog


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