Friday, 5 August 2016

WHY You Should Choose Your Friends Carefully. Even on Facebook

The mother of the great American motivational speaker Les Brown said to him when he was young, "If you keep hanging around with those 9 poor friends, you'll soon be the 10th"

He changed his friends.

When I was 27 and decided I wanted to become more successful and earn more money, one of the hardest things I had to do was separate myself from the group of people I was hanging around with.

They didn't want what I wanted. When I left their company and ventured into sales and surrounded myself with like-minded achievers, I did get a big breakthrough. Being with these people who were as hungry as I was to make a better life, made me feel better too.
mirror neurons, feelings, negativity,

Now, being careful of who you hang around with has suddenly become 'new'

It has become quite popular to read memes and quotes on on social media about who you hang around with on a constant basis, or whose energy orbit you are rotating in, being an important factor to your success. Guru's everywhere are telling you:

  • Hang around with successful people
  • Socialise with people who have got what you do want
  • Cast-off the people who have got what you don't want

You may have also read or know, that the total sum of your earnings is the average of your 5 closest friends (However, I think that is only because rich people and poor people gravitate to each other).

Birds of a feather flock together, as the English proverb says.

And this is the purpose of mastermind groups too, so that like-minded folk can 'bounce' off each other, learn and generate brilliant ideas.

Napoleon Hill, the Grandfather of self-improvement, also said to hang around with other great minds in his book, Think and Grow Rich. He often spent time away from it all with other "master minds" for a few days at a time, just talking about 'stuff'.

But the big questions are, why is it important to be wary of who you hang around with? Why should you be choosy? And does it really matter?

And of course, if it is true what the guru's are saying, further questions then automatically spring to mind. For example, if you hang around with rich people, will you automatically become rich? Or if you are constantly in the company of negative people, will you naturally become negative?

So I do believe it is very important to be extremely mindful of you do consistently hang around with. You should be extremely careful of who your close friends are and how they think and feel.

And here's why.

Neuroscience and Mirror Neurons

Now I am not a neuroscientist  by any stretch of your imagination (Although I do read alot about it) so, as is customary for me, I will keep this simpler.

In the late 1980's and 1990's the Italian neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti and others, stumbled upon mirror neurons whilst studying the behaviour of monkeys.

In short these mirror neurons meant that as monkeys observed the actions of other monkeys performing tasks, the same neurons 'fired' in the brain of the monkeys watching, as if they had performed the very same action.

On my seminars to explain this I throw my hand up in the air and then explain that their mirror neurons have also fired as if they have also physically thrown their hand in the air.

I go on to explain that one of the things you will feel motivated to do after watching your favourite sport, is go and play it.

Why? because your mirror neurons have been firing as if you were actually playing and this causes you to want to imitate and go play (Some studies suggest incidentally that you will perform better at your sport if you watch it being played right before you play).

So what has this got to do with who you hang around with? Well if these mirror neurons are active in humans too (The debate is raging on, but studies are suggesting they are) then when your friends, if they are negative for example, display negative emotions in their facial expressions and body language, which they will, then your mirror neurons will fire as if you are negative too!

When others feel down you can feel down

Now all of this happens on an unconscious level. But let me ask you this: have you ever been in the company of somebody who is really down in the dumps? How did you feel when you left their company? Probably feeling low too right?

The same is true when you spend time with people who are who happy, inspiring and uplifting in nature; you leave feeling positive and motivated.

In psychology terms this transfer of emotions is called, "Emotional Contagion". This is where you will pick up on the visual cues and signs of the person you are with. The mirror neuron theory takes this one step further. When you are in the company of negative people your neurons will be firing as if you yourself are negative.

Remember these mirror neurons are doing what they say on the tin. They are mirroring the emotions and intentions of the people you are with.

'Monkey see, monkey do' is the theory being put forward by neuroscientists about the effect of mirror neurons on us

The new FMRI scans of the regions of the brain that neuroscientists claim have mirror neurons, show an increase in activity when either performing actions or when observing actions of others being performed.

And although you may not be able to read facial expressions and body language, your unconscious mind is an expert; it doesn't miss a trick. So you will be mirroring the slightest action or intention of another person whose company you are in.

In his ground-breaking book The Social Animal; A Story of How Success Happens, author David Brooks talks about mirror neurons. He says in this marvelous read that we should hang around affluent areas as often as possible because mirror neurons also react to our environment.

The Controversial* Facebook Study- Be Wary of Your Facebook Friends

There was a study conducted in 2013 by social psychologists in conjunction with the Facebook Core Data Science team (Don't get mad. You agreed to be a part of such studies when you agreed to Facebook's T and C's) about the impact of emotional contagion through social networks.

They wanted to know:

Could the negative and positive posts that appeared in your newsfeed influence how you feel and if so, would that be revealed in what YOU post? 

In other words, you wouldn't have to be in the physical company of somebody to pick up on their negative emotions through body cues (Or mirror neurons) to experience their negativity and have it influence your behaviour.

So they forged ahead and controlled millions of posts, both negative and positive, that appeared in users' newsfeeds. You never know, you may have been one being controlled (Lol).

Although other factors can deeply affect mood, the study concludes that the people who had more negative stories from friends appear in their Newsfeed, were more likely to post negative updates. And, for a few days after the negative posts stopped!

It also reported that the people who had fewer positive stories appearing in their newsfeeds also showed signs of being more negative in their posts over the next few days.

I don't know about you, but I find this to be a caution of who my facebook friends are make me more vigilant of whose posts show up in my newsfeed.

Why? Because the research is strongly suggesting that your friends' negative posts are indeed directly affecting your moods and subsequently, your behaviours. As determined by what YOU would post.

A few months ago, for various reasons, but one of them being too much negativity about the world in general showing up in my newsfeed, I deleted over 500 "friends" on facebook. Coincidence?


Before neuroscience or mirror neurons came into existence, and before Mark Zuckerberg was even born, there was a book written in the 1960's which became an international bestseller selling over a million copies worldwide.

In that book the author says, in his chapter on wealth, to "hang around the rich part of town and with rich people as often as you can". How insightful was he?

That very same book changed my life in the late 1980's too. It's called, Bring Out the Magic in Your Mind by Al Koran.

I am of the opinion you should be very careful of who you hang around with in the physical world and whose posts show up regularly in your newsfeed. Like I said at the start of this post, I had a sudden surge forwards when I left my circle of friends and started hanging around with people who shared my same ambitions.

Maybe you might want to take a long, hard look at your physical and online friends?

How you feel will determine how you behave. Your behaviours (Actions) determine your results. It is therefore wise counsel to spend more time with those people who make you feel good about yourself, success, money, the world, life and what is possible.

After I have spent time with people and have left their company I make a conscious effort to ask myself one question as soon as I can and it's not rocket-science or neuroscience. The answer will determine if I spend more or less time with them. That question is simple:

How do I feel right now?

And it doesn't take rocket-science, or neuroscience, to find my answer and know who to spend more time with.

*The study I mention above, from what I can gather, was controversial not because of its findings, but because it was conducted on random Facebook users without their knowledge.