Tomorrow is the “Comic Relief” Red Nose Day in the UK, where comedians take over the BBC for the day to make us laugh – and in return we dig deep into our pockets and provide cash to support people in real need. During the day activities will take place across the country where people will have fun at the same time as raising money for charity. In the evening, millions of people will be glued to the TV watching hours of entertainment and pledging cash for the poverty-stricken. It will be good fun.
Even as people are reminded of the terrible situation which much of the world finds itself in, every fun activity going on will be surrounded by smiling, happy people. As they raise money for the poor, most people will be laughing and cheering. Then, in the moment that the TV switches from fun to a serious reminder of the plight of others, groups of people will simultaneously lower the corners of their mouths, perhaps shed a tear or two and all agree on how dreadful things are.
It all shows that we adopt the thinking and behaviour of the people around us. When everyone else is smiling and laughing – even though the activity is designed to help people in difficult and sad situations – we take the laughter as a signal that we too can laugh. When in that instant it all becomes serious and someone else in the room sheds a tear, we get the message that perhaps we too should also be sad. You may often find that people talk about the “palpable mood” in the room – a sense that you can actually touch the emotions in the air. Similarly, people talk about a room’s “energy” – as though we give off some kind of message into the ether which others around us pick up. But whatever you call it, there is no doubt that we have some kind of sense that engages with the behaviour of those around us and forces us to adopt a similar kind of behaviour or mood ourselves.
Some recent research by American psychiatrists shows how important this can be. In this study they found that children of depressed mothers tended to behave better and have reduced psychological issues when their mum’s depression was lifted. In other words, when a depressed mother gets better her children also get better. The psychiatrists did not have to treat the children, just the mums. It shows that the children’s behaviour was not based on their own brain, but what was going on in the brain of someone close to them. In a similar way, when you are at work and everyone is in a good mood, you too end up in a good mood – or at least a better one – if you were feeling down that day. When everyone is saying how bad the recession is, guess what, you too start to find reasons why the financial situation is bad.
There is also research which shows that your financial position is roughly equal to your five closest friends and contacts. If you want to become a multi-millionaire then the quickest way to achieve that is to surround yourself with very rich friends. Soon you adopt their behaviour patterns – the very behaviours which helped them get rich. If you surround yourself with people in your current financial bracket, that’s where you are likely to stay because you adopt the behaviours of those around you, the ones which help you stay in that financial situation.
Wherever you look, there is all sorts of evidence which shows you adopt the behaviour of the people around you. You think like them, act like them and tend to have the same opinions as them. It is all part of the social psychology of groups, helping us maintain stability and equilibrium.
So, online, who do you surround yourself with? Who are your key contacts on social networking sites? Who are the people who interact with you most on your website via the comments? Who are the people who you read or follow yourself? Your online behaviour will inevitably be influenced by them. So, if your online social groupings include people who say, for instance, that blogging is time consuming, you too will tend to agree with that. Similarly, if you have a group of people who say that Facebook is not suitable for business, you will also find yourself looking for reasons that make you agree with this. You will be adopting the thoughts and behaviours of those around you.
If you want to succeed with your website or any other online activity, you need to surround yourself with the thoughts and ideas of those who are succeeding themselves. If you want to be successful at blogging, get to know the most successful bloggers and become connected with them. If you want to have a profitable e-commerce shop, get to know the most successful online commercial operators you can find.
But if you surround yourself with people like you – in the same online situation as you – then you will inevitably adopt their thoughts and behaviours and will not necessarily improve your online activity. Get to know and be friends with the people you consider superior to you in online success – you will then adopt the very behaviour patterns they use which make them successful because – as the depressed mothers research confirms – we behave like those around us. Your online success depends significantly upon who you are connected with.
- To donate money to Red Nose Day please give as much as you can on the Red Nose Day Donate page.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+