Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review of Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kravetz

ISBN: 0062448951
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper Wave (June 27, 2017)

Picking up where The Tipping Point leaves off, respected journalist Lee Daniel Kravetz’s Strange Contagion is a provocative look at both the science and lived experience of social contagion.
In 2009, tragedy struck the town of Palo Alto: A student from the local high school had died by suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming train. Grief-stricken, the community mourned what they thought was an isolated loss. Until, a few weeks later, it happened again. And again. And again. In six months, the high school lost five students to suicide at those train tracks.
A recent transplant to the community and a new father himself, Lee Daniel Kravetz’s experience as a science journalist kicked in: what was causing this tragedy? More importantly, how was it possible that a suicide cluster could develop in a community of concerned, aware, hyper-vigilant adults?
The answer? Social contagion. We all know that ideas, emotions, and actions are communicable—from mirroring someone’s posture to mimicking their speech patterns, we are all driven by unconscious motivations triggered by our environment. But when just the right physiological, psychological, and social factors come together, we get what Kravetz calls a “strange contagion:” a perfect storm of highly common social viruses that, combined, form a highly volatile condition.
Strange Contagion is simultaneously a moving account of one community’s tragedy and a rigorous investigation of social phenomenon, as Kravetz draws on research and insights from experts worldwide to unlock the mystery of how ideas spread, why they take hold, and offer thoughts on our responsibility to one another as citizens of a globally and perpetually connected world.

I am sure you are familiar with this situation; you have met some friends at a coffee shop and the person at the next table is having a loud irate conversation on their cell. What happens next? You start getting frustrated and the more it goes on, the more irritated you and your friends get until this one individual has drained all the fun from your gathering. That readers is social contagion.

Social Contagion has to be one of the most beneficial books I have read hence giving me a better understanding of the influences either consciously or subconsciously influencing my mental well being from the people that surround me including the magnitude of media bombardment from television to the internet. When I began reading this book I could not believe that none of these concepts of social contagion never crossed my mind before, especially the most common ones for instance “happiness connects people by up to three degrees of separation, and that a sad acquaintance doubles our chances of becoming unhappy ourselves.”

The book's plot starts off with the cluster of suicides but that is just a stepping stone for Kravetz’s investigation into social contagions which fills the book with fascinating information and statistics. Unquestionably the deluge of information bursting from the pages is mind blowing here are a few simple examples:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder cascades across no fewer than three generations, connecting people to a single event by more than a century.
  • Fear, whether transmitted by pheromones or through direct or indirect observation, proves to be one of the more impactful social contagions.
  • Greed is one of the most common traits on the planet.
  • Next to chocolate and true north, music is the closest thing to universal agreement we have.

Kravetz writing itself is good, particularly how he organized the book. Furthermore, each fundamental social contagion is broken down into separate sections than chapters keeping all ideas orderly so there is no confusion. The book ends with a relevant section on suicide prevention groups with their descriptions and either a phone number or web address to contact if you or someone you know is in need of help. This would be the perfect book for high school students so they can understand how behavior, ideas, and media affects themselves and others.
Stress opens the portal to experience feelings of defeat, inferiority, humiliation, frustration, sorrow, anguish, and even shame emotions that are not only highly contagious but will also...cascade through closed environments. Even in a high school.

Even if you are not a fan of nonfiction, I would recommend you read this book since it will help enlighten you on how the most minute element changes your world.

If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide please immediately contact The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

Lee Daniel Kravetz has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is a graduate of the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Journalism. He has written for Psychology Today, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times, among other publications. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and children.
Find out more about Lee at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, June 27th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, June 28th: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, June 29th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Friday, June 30th: Books & Tea
Tuesday, July 4th: Wining Wife
Tuesday, July 4th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, July 5th: Based on a True Story
Thursday, July 6th: Readaholic Zone
Thursday, July 6th: she treads softly
Monday, July 10th: StephTheBookworm
Tuesday, July 11th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, July 12th: Books on the Table
Thursday, July 13th: Library of Clean Reads

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of nonfiction books like this that examine our world in new and interesting ways!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.