17 February 2010

Social Behavior is not new

My friend Marisa recently wrote a post over on her Tumblr called Our digital stone age and why we need to trust our intuition. It might seem a little strange at first to liken digital communications – a discipline that is so new that we laugh at head hunters who tell us they're looking for someone with 10 years of experience in it – to the stone age. In her post, she is referring to the fact that motivations and behaviors across digital channels are examined and pontificated on as if they are completely new sets of behaviors that we have never seen before. In some ways, they are new, since new platforms are popping up every day that serve different purposes for different types of information and relationships between people.


But the fundamentals of social behavior online shouldn't be that surprising to us, because they are rooted in a long heritage (as in, centuries old) of group behaviors.
…Passing down social rules of thumb from generation to generation is again NOT rocket science. It is social wisdom, it is the intuitive force that creates culture. “Digital” or “Online” or “Media” are no excuse for us to completely lose what millions of years have taught us about how to interact, create, live. We are humans, we already have culture; the digital world is not separate from this culture, and so this new digital chapter should be informed by the previous “real life” chapter, treating it as the foundation that it is.

In order to achieve this we need to look backwards and internally before we look forwards and externally. We need to trust our pre-existing social intuition to inform our digital tools. We need to innovate based upon what we already know about human interactions, community structure, relationships. We need to rely on this intuitive social knowledge to be smarter and more innovative about our “digital” selves. As brands, civilizations, humans.
This is one of those things that is so true that I don't know why more people haven't called out the "social media experts" sooner, Emperor's New Clothes style.

It's turning out that this subset of communications I've found myself in is helping me pull from my Social Cognition background a lot more than when I started my career as a Strategic Planner. It kind of intuitively makes sense to me, since a lot of Strategic Planning (the work I did in it, at least) had more to do with individual behaviors and motivations, while observing people across digital channels is more about group behavior. It's one of those common sense things, but not one that I might have necessarily thought about before. In either case, I love that I'm seeing more and more people pull from these principles and apply them to this business. It only makes sense, right?
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