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My social network made me fat

The Washington Post has posted a provocative animated graphic that shows a social network with the nodes mapped to obesity. The narrated animation shows the clustering of the obese and the non-obese over time.

The animation comes from the New England Journal of Medicine, but the WaPo’s brief explanation of it seems to take a leap. They say it “demonstrates how social networks influence weight gain.” Well, the animation could just as easily be demonstrating that people cluster according to body mass index, but I haven’t read the NEJM article. [Tags: ]

4 Responses to “My social network made me fat”

  1. I think this correlates to another UK-based survey, which says that people spend more time social networking online than they do in person!

    It was something like 10 hours/week…

  2. I don’t think the study has anything to do with online social networks. I think it’s about the famous Framingham heart study. I think it’s basically saying obese people cluster together in a social network in the physical world.

  3. Well, I haven’t read the study either (I must have watched some video version of it or something) but it’s been recycled in just about every newspaper around here: “being friends with fat people increases your risk of being fat!” — see how that’s going to be understood? OMG, fat is contagious!

    But as you say:

    “the animation could just as easily be demonstrating that people cluster according to body mass index”

    That’s the first thing I thought when I saw the headlines here. Maybe the reporters are getting cause and effect mixed up.

    And then I wonder. Is thinking that a demonstration of sharp, out-of-the-ordinary critical thinking? Not to belittle your comment, of course — but it seems pretty obvious to me; however, I don’t see many people around here taking that small leap: they’re swallowing the “fat breeds fat” idea whole, instead. So, maybe I’m underestimating my powers of critical thinking… ;-)

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