Why YOU Are The Most Influential Node In Your Network
You probably hear about networks all the time. Social networks, professional networks, computer networks, etc. But what is a network? And what does a network look like? Well, one way to picture a network is by imagining a collection of points, let's call them 'nodes', connected to each other by a series of lines, let's call them 'links'.
To better help visualize this concept, below is a representation of a relatively simple network. You'll see nodes, and you'll see links. You'll also see yourself right at the center. Wow, you look great!
The vast majority of people operate in a multitude of different networks. Family. Friends. Coworkers. These are examples of just some of the networks you might belong to that can be visualized in the same way.
The visualizations hold two important pieces of information:
A node represents a person in a network.
A link represents an interaction between two people in a network.
Knowing this, we now have the ability to add a new feature into these visualizations that will lead to a richer understanding of what they aim to represent. Currently, all they tell us is that there are people in a network and that those people interact with each other. With the inclusion of color though, we can begin to see how interactions affect the people within a network, as well as the network itself.
Below is a model of a static, or 'neutral network'. Neutrality is represented by the color gray, and as you can see, all nodes (people) and links (interactions) are in a neutral state.
Although it serves as a useful starting point, it should be noted that complete neutrality is the rarest form for a network to achieve. Interactions between people constantly change the state of a network, and the probability that all interactions are neutral at any given time is extremely low. That being said, neutral networks are a good baseline to build off of in order to see how non-neutral interactions can affect a network.
(Note: Not to be confused with the term network effect, which is defined as 'the phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it', a network affect is a change in the overall health of a network that is caused by the interactions happening within it. Basically, a network's health is affected by the way people within the network treat each other.)
For the sake of discussion as we continue, let's assume that two things are true:
Negativity is contagious.
Positivity is contagious.
Working under these assumptions, we are able to learn more about the network affects that both negativity and positivity can have on a system. Adding a couple more colors makes visualizing those affects more intuitive.
The two network representations above include some new colors: red and green. One network contains two red nodes connected by a red link, and the other network contains two green nodes connected by a green link. While visually stimulating, the newly added colors also serve the practical purpose of symbolizing negativity and positivity. In this context, red indicates negativity and green indicates positivity.
These colors help to expand upon the two core pieces of information that were established earlier. So, if a node represents a person in a network, and red indicates negativity, then a red node represents a negative person, but more accurately put, a red node represents a person in a negative mood. This holds true for green as well, meaning that if green indicates positivity, then a green node represents a positive person, but more accurately put, a green node represents a person in a positive mood.
Furthermore, if a link represents an interaction between two people in a network, then a red link must mean a negative interaction between two people. Once again, the same holds true for green, meaning that a green link must mean a positive interaction between two people.
A red node represents a person in a negative mood.
A green node represents a person in a positive mood.
A red link represents a negative interaction between two people.
A green link represents a positive interaction between two people.
Moving forward, the next development comes from integrating the idea that both negativity and positivity are contagious. The power of this concept unveils how a seemingly isolated interaction can ultimately affect an entire network.
To demonstrate this power, imagine a single red node in an otherwise neutral network. This red node has a high probability chance of creating a red link. That is because a person in a negative mood is at an increased risk of having a negative interaction. Couple this with the contagious nature of negativity, and the red link creates a second red node. In other words, a negative interaction raises the risk of putting a person in a negative mood.
This second red node now has a high probability chance of creating a second red link. The process of people in negative moods having negative interactions repeats itself until the network ultimately ends up in a state of complete negativity, which we will call 'Deep Red'.
Clearly a Deep Red network is not desirable, as it indicates a toxic environment. Negativity exists, and because of its infectious qualities, Deep Red networks do as well. Luckily though, positivity is contagious too.
This means that a single green node in an otherwise neutral network has a high probability chance of creating a green link. That is because a person in a positive mood is more likely to have a positive interaction. Couple this with the contagious nature of positivity, and the green link creates a second green node. In other words, a positive interaction increases the likelihood of putting a person in a positive mood.
This second green node now has higher odds of creating a second green link. The process of people in positive moods having positive interactions repeats itself until the network reaches a state of complete positivity, which we will call 'Deep Green'.
Obviously a Deep Green network is highly desirable, especially when compared to a Deep Red network. Therefore, behaving in a way that helps bring about a Deep Green network is a worthy goal deserving of effort. By doing so, you are not only creating a better environment for yourself, but potentially every other person in your network as well.
Noble as it may be though, acting in a manner that brings about a Deep Green network is not always an easy task, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Remember, negativity is contagious, and you are just as likely as anyone else to become a red node after having a negative interaction.
Take a look at the following representation:
In this scenario, the probabilities say that the negative way in which people are interacting with you will cause you to become a red node. The probabilities also say that you will pass negativity to another node during your next interaction, compounding the toxicity within the network.
These are probabilities though, not absolutes. So just because you are statistically inclined to reflexively react to certain stimuli in a predetermined way, does not mean that you have to.
After every negative interaction you have with another node in your network, you are faced with a decision. You can decide to succumb to the contagious effects of negativity, or you can decide to stop it in its tracks. This decision is the reason why at any given moment, YOU are the most influential node in your network.
The reality is that you can't stop someone from negatively interacting with you, but you can choose how you react, and that choice has wide-ranging implications on the rest of your network.
If the contagious forces of negativity are too great for you to withstand, that's okay. Overcoming their control is a true challenge. But if you decide to go against the grain, beat the odds, and pass positivity forward instead, then we can see what the ensuing network affect might look like:
The result? DEEP GREEN!
The representation above showcases your ability to singlehandedly lead a network on the brink of Deep Red to reverse course towards Deep Green by taking advantage of the contagious characteristics of positivity. By making a conscious choice to react positively to a negative stimulus, you can set in motion a series of events that have the potential to completely alter the moods and interactions of every other person in your network. Don't be surprised if your decision is rewarded handsomely, as you reap the benefits of a pleasant environment full of positive people and positive interactions.
It all starts with you though. So...
Be mindful. Be aware. Be strong.
Be the positive catalyst. Be the positive influence. Be the positivity you want your network to exude.
Be The Green.
- Harry W. Brodsky