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Benefits of Weak Ties

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2018/07/17/casual-relationships-to-others-can-better-your-health-Sheldon-Cohen-Carnegie-Mellon-University-of-Texas/stories/201807170002

What if I told you that your relationship to those couple of friends on Facebook, gym buddy, or even neighbor down the street was leading to the improving of both your physical and mental health? The author in the article linked above argues that casual interactions and weak ties in one’s network is associated with better cognitive functioning, physical health, emotional health, and decreased risk in mortality as one gets older. Years of research suggest this trend – strong ties are hard to maintain because they require a lot of effort/investment, whereas weak ties are able to increase exponentially with minimal effort. These weak ties that one is able to accumulate and maintain with minimal effort then play a major role in our lives – both consciously and subconsciously, and generally lead to a healthier and more productive life.

When one considers the concept of weak ties, it is hard to think of anything else but networking and professional relationships. This is probably due to how easy it is to relay the idea of “the strength of weak ties” to an audience or in class – the concept of weak ties was taught in class as well as described in The Strength of Weak Ties by Mark Granovetter, and his work that is included in our course textbook is primarily involved with explaining its importance through the example of finding job prospects.

If you’re unaware of this concept, it’s the premise that there is a lot of value in weak ties when searching for a job because the chances of your strong ties already being connected and the information/resources you can get from them already exhausted is high. Therefore, we tend to overlook the value of weak ties in many situations where they also play a major role in our lives. Consider times when we are most vulnerable (break-up, divorce, new stage of life, etc.). These are the situations where our weak ties are most valuable – they provide a “psychological safety net” that helps mitigate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Furthermore, the author mentions that people with high levels of social interaction (various strong AND weak ties) tend to be happier and healthier, and uses various studies to support her argument.

Weak ties are able to help one create a sense of community and belonging, and these are aspects essential to one’s physical and emotional health. They go beyond just networking and professional opportunities, and it is important to recognize that to live a happy and healthy life.

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