Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday's and Communication

A holiday party conversation with relatives last night kicked up the "why would someone use Twitter" and "why do the kids text message so much" questions again. There's nothing like getting four generations in a room to illustrate severe communication differences. The older generations are downright angry at the concept of publicly broadcasting your thoughts. The younger one's don't know any other way; it just is.

The conversation brought up some work I did with a friend little over a year ago. It came out of a day-long, two-man, off-site brainstorming session. We were trying to understand social network and communication dynamics. What motivates people to contribute? What motivates people to look at others' contributions? Why bother with all this stuff? We jammed our summarized thoughts into a yin-yang diagram like so...

It goes something like this... we contribute to social networks/products in order to fulfill our need for self expression... we consume the information within social networks/products in order to discover new things... and the social networks/products themselves provide an innate human need to feel connected. Wrap all this stuff together and you have the nut that comprises the psychology and sociology behind social applications. One's contributions to a social product generally reflect their "real-life" personality facets. If someone's an ego-maniac in "real-life," they're likely to be one "online." If someone's passive in "real-life," they're likely to be "online" as well (if they choose to participate "online" at all). You can often draw connections between one's desire/ability/style to blog, and their contributions to various social networks/products.

Most of this is obvious, but some of it is intensely subtle.

Some examples:
  • I check my Facebook feed to learn about what my "friends" have been up to. Discovery.
  • I tweet about ice skating with my family so my "friends" (or geographically distant relatives) can know what I've been up to recently. Expression.
  • I blog about an exotic experience I had in so anyone reading my stuff knows I had the exotic experience (bragging). Expression.
  • I read the blog post from a friend who just went to a concert to learn about a new band I might be interested in. Discovery.
  • Again, wrap it all together and you have satisfied our human need for "connectedness."
The only real differences between today's communication and yesterday's is that today's is permanently "recorded"/stored and doesn't fade with time, and that today's cannot be controlled once the cat is out of the bag. These are BIG differences and can be used for good, as well as evil.

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