Monday, November 12, 2012

Look what I did! (You should too): A story about social media, peer pressure, and approval.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Are you unconsciously influenced by what
you see on social media?
Recent national events have created a flurry of social media activity. From the election and the associated fervor on both sides to Superstorm Sandy; millions of pictures have been sent, tweets were flying a mile a minute and who was behind them? Survey says: Us.

The need to be first or to fulfill our own need for approval from others is explored a bit further in a recent article from Forbes' Jeff Bercovci. In a witty read, he discusses the various stages of approval seeking and how by the nature of the media itself, it is impossible to have someone notice something you're proud of unless you put it out there. He also discusses the type of peer pressure created by the good deeds of others as well as, pressure created to tell people you did something good.
I want to take this idea a step further this week. We've all heard the echoes of our parents voices when we read, 'If your friend jumps off a bridge, should you?' It's a universally used example to deter kids from buckling to peer pressure.

On social media, when you see that your friend likes something, or in Bercovici's example; voted, or has an opinion on a current event, or is ranting about the blown call in the closing moments of the game; does it make you feel like you should do the same?

Does it motivate you to speak out on topics you normally would generally have no business giving your opinion on?

My first instinct is to say, 'No. I don’t.'  But, maybe I do and I just don’t notice?

When I see people post a picture of their kids, do I subconsciously follow?  When someone posts a poignant news story, I re-post it sometimes, and yes, if someone posts that they donated to a charity, or helped someone less fortunate, I have looked into that charity or researched a situation.

Let's take it a step further.  Should companies use social media to promote their own philanthropy or practice philanthropy for the sake of doing good in the community and egging others on to do the same? Is their cyber-bragging wrong because they are a company? Should they wait for someone else to recognize their efforts or, should they tell the world to promote a positive message and goodwill outside their main line of business?

Should we wait for someone else to promote positive messages about us or what we've done, or, should we bask in an introspective satisfaction that we've done something positive in the world?

Social media causes us to seek responses.  By nature we as humans generally want approval, confirmation that we are good people with a purpose, so it seems natural that we would post about positive things we think and do. The confirmation from our friends further fuels the desire for more positive attention. It’s a never-ending cycle, but not necessarily a bad one.

What do you think? (You can let me know here, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, etc.)

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.