RALPH Gonzales first hit the road in last year’s The Great Lapu-Lapu Run after being “nagged” into joining the event by his father, PR man Jonji. After the race, he hung up his shoes “and stopped running for a long time.”
In January, with excitement over the approaching 1st Cebu City Marathon spilling over to profile pages of Facebook users, Ralph was encouraged to run again. He said some of his friends whom he thought could never run a kilometer were starting to run five kilometers, 10K and even 21K.
It made me think, he said in a Facebook interview, that if they could do it, then I could, too.
The status messages—those short posts announcing to the world what a Facebook user is doing or wearing or eating or even thinking—were the biggest factor, said Ralph.
“They also make it sound so fun, it makes you wanna give it a shot,” he said. Ralph is now a regular runner. He is also a member of the ungo runners, an informal group of runners who run every Friday night. Ungo runners found each other through, where else, but Facebook.
Virna Liezl Lim Firmeza also credits Facebook postings of her runner friends in getting her to run. Among her friends are top amateur runner Florence Mata, who frequently wins a top 10 spot in weekend races, and runners Emelee Sagun and Susan Militante.
She said Florence would keep on posting photos and status messages on running and she felt left out. She said every time she goes out with Florence, Emelee and Susan, they would always talk about running and she saw the changes in their well-being because of the sport.
Firmeza said the influence of her friends got her running and she eventually got hooked.
People have been saying for so long that running is like a virus—it’s spreading among people at a pandemic rate. A study that spanned half-a-century tells us why.
Behavior, whether good or bad, is socially contagious, according to a study of more than 5,000 residents of Framingham, a town in Massachussets.
Social scientist Nicholas Christakis and political scientist James Fowler studied personal records of 5,124 men and women who were part of the Framingham Heart Study that was started in 1948. The still-ongoing study led to the identification of major cardiovascular diseases risk factors and their effects such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, age, gender and psychosocial issues.
What makes the medical records unique is that the researchers took the effort to indicate the participants’ family members, close friends and colleague. From these data, Christakis and Fowler were able to map a network of human relationships and found:
1.) Obesity spreads through social networks like a virus. Having an obese spouse raises the risk of becoming obese by 37 percent, having an obese friend raises it to 171 percent. The study said social networks are better at predicting obesity rather than the presence of so-called “fat genes.”
2.) Smokers quit together. The study found that when smokers quit, their friends were 36 percent likely to follow.
3.) Happiness is contagious offline and on the Internet. A happy friend increases an individual’s probability of being happy by nine percent. In contrast, an extra $5,000 income only raises it by 2 percent. Even friends of friends have a positive influence on one’s happiness, the study said.
Christakis and Fowler also studied Facebook pages of students in one university and found that people who smiled in their profile photos tended to cluster with other people who also smiled. They also found that smiling Facebook members have 15 percent more close friends than their dour peers. (On a personal observation, people wearing skimpy running shorts tend to cluster together, don’t you think? Go check your Facebook contacts now.)
This contagious character of social networks, particularly Facebook, is what’s fueling the current boom in running.