Imagine you were able to snap a finger, and have any food you want instantly appear to satisfy your hunger. Sorry, unfortunately I haven’t figured out a way on how to do that yet. However, I would like to speak about something just as magical and important to your well-being that you do everyday without even thinking about it. Before I reveal what it is and how you can benefit from it, it’s vital you understand why it is important.
At our very core, humans are social creatures. We naturally yearn to be with another human, and consequently with other humans. Some of us like to be with alot of other people, and some of us like to keep a small social circle. Regardless, we get great pleasure form the time we spend with each other. But besides pleasure, our chances of survival also increase dramatically. Back in the cave man days, our ancestors learned to survive by grouping in packs or tribes. One person can only do so much, but many people together, if organized efficiently, can accomplish great unbelievable feats. As our tribes grew, so did our capablities. Our technology got better, our knowledge grew extensively, and consequently in a feedback-loop manner pushed humanity into civilization and our modern day world. Although the world around us is very different from the days of when we used to hunt saber-toothed tigers, we still yearn to fulfill our core social need of being connected. This is a need that is just as important for our mental health, as food is for our physical health. In fact, the lack of this yearning to connect with other people (amongst other symptoms) is diagnosed as depression today.
The difference today is that we now have tools that enable us to satisfy this need of social connection in ways we have never had before. We can’t snap our finger and have food appear, but we can with a touch of a finger satisfy our need for social connection and staying in-the-loop on demand. Literally, with a touch of a finger we can participate in being social, without even being around another human being.
Take a second and think about this for a moment. Have you ever took notice of how many times a day you check your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Vine? You whip out your phone, you open up Instagram and instantly get a snapshot of what’s going on in your social ciricle at any given moment. You don’t even have to participate to satisfy your social needs, but of course you want to particpate because having a social connection isn’t a one way street! A social connection is an exchange between human beings. It’s just as much about participation as it is spectating. So you take a picture, write a tweet, share a post, and participate. It’s just more fun and human to do so. As a result, your friends recipricate that behavior and like your picture, retweet you, or respond to your post and before you know it you have millions of people using a platform to do something that humans have been doing since they figured out how to light a fire. However, now it’s extremly efficient and coordinated. Computers are really good at organization, so it’s not surprise that software is great at managing social interactions. More importantly, it is now on your terms. You can control when you want to be social, and you’re not pressured by the fleeting essence of time, or the physical constraints of distance.
So how can you use these tools to your advantage and more than just a quick fix of pleasure?
Well first, you need to understand that you now have a voice and it’s louder than you think. Twenty years ago, if I wanted to get a message out to a group of my friends I would have to call each of them, or send a letter, and wait for their repsonse. This is slow. The honey of human interaction is the “real-time” aspect of it, otherwise it gets stale. Snail mail lacks that. Making a phone call has a “real-time” aspect, but it’s one-dimensional. The only thing being exchanged is words. Platforms like Facebook are more rich in the sense that you can exchange pictures, videos, music, and any other form of media known to man, with everyone at once in your social network.
Use this to your advantage. If you want to get some idea out, or just be heard there was never a better time for you to do so than today. The problem is actually being heard. How do you become heard amongst hundrends and thousands of people? You have to provide value to someone. The platform is there to do so, but the same rules of human interaction apply. If you want to be heard, you need to provide value to the people that you want to hear you. Let me repeat that once more:
If you want to be heard, you need to provide value to the people that you want to hear you.
Here’s the reality, people do not give a shit about what you have to say if it doesn’t apply to them. You need to understand that we all look for ways to benefit ourselves as much as possible. If you’re using Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to bitch about something, you are doing it wrong. I do not give a shit about what you ate for dinner either. How about instead of just posting a picture of what you ate for dinner, you give me a recipe, or tell me an interesting fact about the food, or a short anecdote about what you enjoy about it. It increases your chances of interaction. And do not #hashtag the crap out of it with irrelevant terms. You look like an idiot who is thirsty for attention. If your hashtags have nothing to do with the content you posted, you’re just showing the world how desperate you really are to recieve a “like” to validate yourself.
One of the most popular pages on Facebook, Humans of New York uses social media masterfully. If you haven’t checked this out yet, you really need to. On any given day you will find a simple picture of a person in New York, but the magic behind it is the little short story or anecdote that goes along with the picture. It’s simple and great content that moves you emotionally, or at the very least gives you some sort of entertainment. Once again, Humans of New York does not ask anything from you, instead he just keeps on giving and giving and his following just keeps on increasing and increasing. Just recently he released a book composed with the best content he posted online. His book became the top seller on Amazon in less than day. That is the power of giving in today’s world.
The other advantage these tools bring us is the power of control. We are now able to curate and craft our message accordingly to our vision. We are able to control the perceptions of what people think of us in ways we haven’t before. You need to assume that anything you share publicly will either alter or confirm people’s impressions of who you are. This can be extremly dangerous or extremely powerful. At the end of the day your reputation means alot in society. If people have negative perceptions of you, life will not be easier for you in everything from your personal to business relationships. You are in the drivers seat. If you crash the car, it is on you. Do not crash the car, use it to win the race. Next time you are posting something publicly, be conscience of what you are posting. Ask yourself what the repercussions are, and if this is how you want people to perceive you.
We live in a time where have all of these cool new tools to interact with people and become more social. With these new tools, we have new opportunies to be heard and accomplish things none of us can do alone. Enjoy it, but most importantly embrace it. Rather than subscribing to the mantra that technology is ruining our social interactions, leverage these tools to your advantage. For thousands of years people would kill to have the voice we have today.
And now I would like to leave you with a quote, from one of my favorite Twitter accounts, that perfectly sums up the time we live in today:
If people in the 1980s took a Polaroid of their dinner to show their friends, they’d get locked up. — @GSElevator