S1E7: YY Ahn on How the Friendship Paradox Impacts Your Mental and Physical Health

YY Ahn is an Associate Professor of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University. He investigates questions across a range of fields including sociology, health, economics and culture.

In this episode we:

– Discuss what YY learned from analysing LinkedIn’s data from 500 million users in 25 years
– Talk about the friendship paradox and how understanding it affects your physical and mental health
– Explore YY’s research on COVID and counterintuitive approaches to contact tracing



  • How did YY become interested in network science during his undergraduate degree? [1:40]
  • What’s the difference between networks and systems, and why do people often confuse the two terms? [4:34]
  • How YY and his team approached the challenge of analysing LinkedIn’s data from 500 million users in 25 years [5:15]
  • What data did YY and his team actually have access to and what were LinkedIn’s privacy protocols around the use of the data? [8:44]
  • How does the concept of clusters in network science differ from the same concept as it’s used in economics? [9:44]
  • What are the most interesting clusters that YY and his team discovered from the data?
  • What does the data reveal about what the optimal skills are for young people to be learning and which degrees are the most useful? [10:32]
  • What are the trends in terms of migration into and out of major clusters like Silicon Valley? [12:12]
  • Solving the problem of upskilling the global workforce is a real challenge in the 21st century. How does MIT’s skill network analysis help inform this process? [15:31]
  • The research YY has been doing on the coronavirus and contact tracing [16:42]
  • What is the friendship paradox and why is this concept so counterintuitive? How does it apply to the spread of the coronavirus? [17:11]
  • What are the problems with contact tracing as it’s being applied to the coronavirus and how can network science concepts make this process more efficient? [21:33]
  • What can we as individuals do to stop COVID-19 spreading amongst our own networks? [23:28]
  • Bluebox: Erica explains the concept of the friendship paradox, discussing the impact it has on the way we see ourselves [26:52]
  • How have the insights YY’s gained from studying network science impacted his own life? [28:51]
  • How does social media reinforce the friendship paradox and increase FOMO?  [32:01]
  • What advice would YY give to people who are curious about these concepts looking to understand the impact of networks on their lives more deeply? [33:40]
  • Where to find YY Ahn online [35:01]


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