A Closer Look at Social Health Games with Trapper Markelz of MeYou Health: Part 1

Jennifer Rudloff

Playing games like Tag growing up was fun because these backyard games were social. We got to hang out with other kids. What a blast it was being part of a relay team or kicking the ball around at recess. Back then, movement was part of play (we didn’t really think much about it), and chances are our parents didn’t have to force us to go outside to race our bikes with the neighborhood kids.

Then we entered school and college and work... and our movement decreased as we grew up and became quote-unquote adults in the real world. We had to shift from the idea of play to the idea of work. Despite responsibilities of being an adult, play is still very much at the center of enjoying life. Which explains why we find fun ways to connect with others, whether it’s huddled around a game of Risk with friends, shooting hoops with our son or daughter in the driveway, or virtually teaming up with fellow gamers in World of Warcraft.

We are all connected.
The social connections we have as adults are just as important, if not more so, than the ones we had as kids. The connections we had as kids helped shape us. The ones we have as adults help sustain us.

In recent coverage by USA Today and Gail Sheehy, social interaction plays a key role in our well-being and happiness. So much so that women who spent one to five hours a day socially interacting - be it via Facebook, face-to-face, or by phone - had the highest well-being versus those who did not make social connectedness a daily priority. The key takeaway from Gail’s article and the data presented from Healthways is that the more closely we are in contact with our social connections, the better our happiness and health is. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

By making time for social interactions, we can experience a boost in our well-being. And that can have a significant impact on the health and wellness of our social networks.

There’s strength in networks.
At MeYou Health, we created Daily Challenge to be a social product that helps improve well-being through daily small actions. The goal has always been to promote new and deeper connections, creating support networks that drive meaningful change in our lives. The stronger these connections, the richer the experience. The richer the experience, the higher the commitment level.

The idea behind Daily Challenge is simple: do one small action at a time, each and every day. As we have learned through the work of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (best represented in their book Connected), we are all connected... and so are our behaviors. It turns out these connections run deeper than we realize, allowing our behaviors, both good and bad, to become influenced by people we might hardly know or possibly not know at all. Crazy but powerful stuff.

To study social networks and behavior change, MeYou Health is looking at both the social, mathematical and biological rules governing how social networks form (“connection”) and the biological and social implications of how they operate to influence feelings, thoughts, and behaviors (“contagion”).

With Daily Challenge, we can see for the first time how support networks are structured, along with what role high and low well-being play in their formation and influence. We are, in fact, building a one-of-a-kind map of well-being based on the information we have gathered since Daily Challenge’s launch in 2010. This information is leading to a whole set of controlled studies this year and clinically controlled studies next year to quantify the true effects of social mechanics on intervention engagement and improved well-being.

(Look for more in Part II)

Topics: Engagement Health MeYou Health Natural Movement Playing Games Daily Challenge Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks Behavior Change Games for Behavior Change Social Well-Being Health Games