I’m not done reading The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, but I have read enough to say a bit about what I have learned. The book is about how social epidemics (like the sudden re-popularity of Hush Puppies in 1995) get their start, and the factors involved. Gladwell talks about the notion of a tipping point- the moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior takes off, and begins to multiply exponentially. He explores the way ideas, tv shows, even crime rates in New York can be examined by being attentive to this phenomenon. One example I found fascinating was the story of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride. I didn’t know that another man, William Dawes, made a similar trek to Lexington that night, but was not as successful as Revere in drawing the attention of the towns’ militias as he passed. Gladwell explains why Revere is the one we remember, using elements of his philosophy of the tipping point.
Basically, there are three people involved in creating a social epidemic, those who cause a tipping point- connectors, mavens, and salesmen. The connectors are those kinds of people we all know- they have many business acquaintances or personal friends, and many people are able to say they met so and so through them. They are important to social epidemics because they are the ones who have the influence, that can spread the information to the largest group of people.
Mavens are the people who gather information on good deals and good quality products. A connector doesn’t usually spend time learning the information himself, he relies on the maven to tell him where to get the best deal. Then, a connector will pass this on to hundreds of his closest friends, and a tipping point may be reached.
The salesman is the kind of person who is able to persuade people to think or do a certain thing. These people are extremely expressive, optimistic types, and can’t help but spread the good cheer to those around them. They are contagious.
Then, there’s the ordinary folk, like me, who get to watch these three extraordinary people in action. I still contribute to the epidemic by googling Hush Puppies (in response to the mentioning of them in this book), and finding a really cute pair of brown ballet flats. If I was rich as well as ordinary, I would plunk down the $78 for some of my very own, possibly starting a re-re-popularity of the brand.
I enjoyed thinking of people I knew (very few, as I am not a connector), and seeing if they showed signs of being close to any of the above personality types. Luke, I think, is almost a Maven, as he really likes getting good quality at a good price. My childhood friend, Jon, is definitely a connector. I gotta tell you one neat story-
We were still doing Hope Community Church, and a couple came to visit one Sunday. After the service, we were talking, and the girl was saying she went to Worthington Christian High School. I brainstormed people I knew that went there, and asked her if she knew any Michael’s. She answered that she was a Michael, which left me stunned for a minute. She was Jason’s sister, Jason (himself a connector) was a friend of Jon’s. I wouldn’t have known Jason apart from Jon, and, while I would have met Jenny sooner or later, I wouldn’t have that particular connection to her without Jon. Interesting stuff. This is where “six degrees of separation” comes from- the idea that any person is connected to another by an average of six people. And it so often is less- about half the time (ha ha ha). As you can see, this was my favorite part of the book to think about.
There is so much more to the book, but this is getting long, so I’ll quit here. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sociology, psychology, or just modern trends and how they come to be.
Also on the subject of books, I’m thinking it is time to start the Mitford Series again. I soooo enjoyed reading them by Christmas tree light last year. I’ll try to highlight my favorite parts here on the blog this time. Anybody with me? Angela?