The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America interviewed Activate Networks advisor James Fowler, PhD, on the power of social networks, and leveraging social networks to beat substance abuse.
Dr. Fowler is a political science researcher at UCSD, and he has studied how substance-abuse spreads through a community. Research shows that whenever people are able to halt their addiction and change to positive behavior, it’s typical that they don’t to it alone, but rather through a network that’s experiencing the desired positive change.
Dr. Fowler is keynote speaker at the 22nd Annual National Leadership Forum of CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) in February.
In this interview for CADCA, Fowler points out that social networks arose long before Facebook started. Social networks are part of human existence, and survival has often depended on copying other people – for example, in spotting a dangerous snake ahead.
We’re even more connected nowadays. In fact, it’s been shown that we are connected not just to our friends, but also to the friends of our friends, and even to the friends of our friends’ friends! “A short number of steps bring us into contact with the whole world,” Fowler notes.
The most effective connections are real-world ones: the people we know face-to-face, care about, and trust. Through strong real-world connections, more than through other, “acquaintance”-type connections, we generate “the exponential power of social networks,” Fowler says.
According to Fowler, it’s very important to reach out to people engaged in healthy behaviors, so that such behavior can then be spread through the network: “To make a change, it’s important to make the change at the network or community level.”