As highly social creatures, humans possess an undeniable desire to connect with others. It has been like that long before the digital age, even before the industrial revolution and discovery that Earth is not the centre of the Universe. The abundance of computers, internet and other digital gadgets only enabled savvy marketers to exploit this need and bring it onto the whole new global level. And suddenly having good relationships with neighbours, couple a pub buddies and a few close friends is not nearly enough to quench the thirst for social approval.
‘What do you mean you have only 100 Facebook friends? Just 20 Twitter followers? Only 40 Youtube views where you are playing with a cute kitten? There must be something wrong with you.’ Even a bit exaggerated, this rings true. Hence, we judge.
To elaborate, according to the Maslow’s pyramid, in a hierarchy of needs ‘love and social belonging’ is a third stage, following physiological and security needs. Yet, as one of the criticism of this theory stated, some people can have reversed pyramids where social belonging can come before other basic needs. Arguably, today is the day when this is true for a large proportion of digital population. Otherwise, why would we stay up till 4am only to chat with some Facebook friends we never even met in person or play games like Candy Crush all the way through lunch break (forgetting about half eaten panini) just to beat friend’s best score?…
Not all social networks serve the same psychological purpose however. There are nuances. Facebook, for example, is all about the inner ME, the reflection of MY personality online where more people can see WHO I AM and LIKE ME.Twitter, on the other hand, lets people know about MY SITUATION and WHAT I DO. Blogs, online discussion rooms and forums help people to find other like-minded souls, so they can discuss matters they feel passionate about, in order to BE ACCEPTED and feel like they BELONG.
Nonetheless, despite the nuances, all these social tools are very ego centric. People who engage the most on social media platforms, collect most followers and report everything about their day from ‘happy for my sister who just got married’ to ‘that sandwich was delicious’ are usually seeking social conformity and some kind of validation from their social circle. Do you know that flattering feeling when your receive a notification that ‘Jane Smith and 46 more people liked your picture’? We all do.
People who are not popular on social networks are usually introverts, people who are happy with their 5 best friends they share everything with and they don’t care that there are only 5 likes on their profile picture. There is nothing wrong with that, these people just view social life from a different perspective. Being unpopular is not a disaster to everyone, it might just mean that people have different goals and might feel very comfortable with themselves and independent from the opinion of others. This, however, is rather rare these days and yet there is nothing wrong with seeking a little bit of attention from others. After all, it is in our nature.
Overall, social media is not reinventing any wheels here; human psychology, needs and behaviours are much more stable than one might suspect. Social media is merely using the underlining principles of this psychology and satisfies the basic human needs. The technology will progress, however it seems that people’s needs will stay the same. Digital technology and emerging forms of social media will only… Reshape them in yet another trendy fashion.