For most people including the marketeers, social media is a form of technology which maps our behaviour into digital world. Actually this is how the entire automation or for that matter the computerization has started. We first tried to automate the routine work with the help of machines then we made them little intelligent by adding ‘CPU’ or brainpower. Think of machines – typewriters then word-processors on the computers or calculators and then spreadsheets. Think of the early use of computers for payroll etc. Essentially we were asking the machines to do our work. Most people ( who are 35 and above today) have to come to think of computers, internet as a way to map our tasks – personal work and office work in the internet world.
But social media such as Facebook or Twitter or Google hangout or Linkedin are proving to be much more than manifestation of our lives in the digital world. Though the founder’s of these companies might not have started with the grand vision and great psychological studies or with the intentions of changing the people behaviour, but these tools are precisely doing that – they are taking us into an era where our social behaviour is being shaped by them. Here are sample examples why I think it is happening :
Definition of friends : We all value number of likes and comments to our posts by our friends. We engage and connect with the people with whom we did not have in-depth relationships in real life. But we value their comments, we establish some bonds with them. With more and more people being on-line, the way new generation would think of ‘friends’ is entirely going to change. There are going to be more online friends than real life ones and they are the ones who are going to be more influential. These influences would not have cultural boundaries. This wold lead to the behaviour patterns that have no historical pattern that can be studied. It is all going to be very new.
‘Hanging out’ : With the video chats and ‘hangout’ types tools becoming common coupled with online games becoming more interactive where do you think people are going to spend time on? What is going to shape their minds?
Learning process : We used to think sending to school was enough for the children to get knowledge and information. To give them something extra there were libraries. In a way, it was a linear process, there were defined ways of acquiring the knowledge. Now we want children to be all rounded at an early age and are exposing them, at times pushing them, to many sources of information – schools, tuition, classes, workshops, camps and online assignments. If that is not enough they are expected to understand the latest developments in each fields while learning the basics. For example we teach them ( in the schools) sound waves, light waves, fundamentals of electromagnetic theory, atomic structure etc and then we want them to know about the latest developments in satellite communication, nano technology, super computers etc.Essentially we want to shorten the learning cycle by pointing to the resources available online. Obviously they get pushed to spend more time going through internet and all these social resources.
The entire social media is going to acquire its own form, without we noticing it. The minds, culture, behaviour, societies and nations are going to be shaped by what people get exposed on the social networks. Are we ready to embrace it?
Note : I have made the image by combining three different pictures available on various sites.