Smart Mobby Behavioral Change
March 24th, 2010

The use of social networks to drive behavioral change of individuals is not new. Alcoholics Anonymous and the Grameen Bank’s microcredit programs use the power of groups to help individuals overcome alcoholism and pay back microloans, respectively. The modern-day manifestation of this is, of course, the use of online social networks to drive behavioral change. StepGreen, YouSustain, and countless other Facebook apps leverage social networks to help individuals engage in sustainable behavior, and GoalTribe is a social network site entirely devoted to using social networks for purposes of personal goal achievement.

Specifically with regards to health, Clive Thompson’s fantastic NYT article, fantastically titled Are Your Friends Making You Fat? seminally popularized the influence of social networks on health behavior. And we’re certainly seeing innovation at the intersection of Health 2.0 and what I’ll refer to as ‘smart mobby behavioral change’ (other suggestions most welcome): health-oriented social network sites like CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe enable patients to connect and heal together, the Nike + iPod program uses its own social network site to ‘challenge’ Nike wearers to run more, and Shape Up The Nation, an employer-based program using cooperation within and competition between groups in the workplace to promote healthy living, is likewise entering the online social networking space.

Motivating people to change their behavior – to run more, smoke less, recycle more, consume less energy – is difficult. Emerging uses of online social networks for purposes of sustainable, healthy, and otherwise desirable behavioral change presents a potential, and promising, antidote to such inertia. (Smart mobby behavioral change can certainly be leveraged for not-so-benign purposes, as exemplified by the less fortunate outcomes of peer pressure, but that’s another blog post.) Stay tuned for continued growth in this space.

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