Unattributable cost.

I’m very close to my family.  Sometimes I like to say that we are psychically linked.  My mom calls me out of the blue to check up on me and see how I’m doing.  If I’m having a great day but feel sad and don’t know why, I may check to see if my dad is sick.  My knee hurts – I ask my sister Shelly if her knee (which she’s had surgery on) is bothering her, in case I’m picking up sympathetically on her pain instead of realizing my own.

It’s the same thing with economics.  Certain variables in the system of price and supply and why companies work cannot be calculated.  There’s the idea of customer service and customer loyalty.  There’s an idea of ‘giving back to the community’ by some businesses that results only in costs for them, and may or may not give them increased sales.  There’s benefits from a thriving main street area, whether or not an individual living in a community visits one particular storefront.  We subconsciously react to variables we cannot compute in our everyday purchases, as well as our interpersonal interactions.

A new study has shown that such reactions may come from a further remove than you might expect.  At up to three degrees of separation, there is a notable impact between people on happiness.  That means a friend of your friend’s friend could make you statistically more likely to be happy strictly through their own mood.

It’s something of a scary thought – somehow, we’re all picking up on each other’s vibes from a bit of a distance.  Your friend is glum, which makes you a bit unhappy, of course, since you want only the best for them.  Another friend reads that from you, and is slightly off because of it, and the sadness ripples outwards, decreasing with each successive link in the friend chain.  We can’t know exactly where these feelings come from, but we know they are real and meaningful things.

But at the same time, there remains a choice.  You can be happy, or unhappy.  You can spread joy, or leak regret.  So far (by 9% versus 7% in overall impact on others), it seems happiness is winning.

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3 Comments

  1. sedgehammer said,

    December 10, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Just for that, I’m sending you AND your friend’s friends negative vibes…

  2. shannon said,

    December 18, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I am sad you have sympathy pains for everyone except me…


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