Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Social Media is More Social Than Media

Some people push back on the latest thing because they don't like new things. It doesn't matter if the new thing is a cell phone or an automobile or any other proven technology: If it's new, it's eww :-(. These value routine over novelty.

All people engage with Dunbar's number (150 person capacity in your network) differently as they get older.

The reason why social media is so popular with students is that they have:

  • the highest need for social connection (while in college)
  • the most disposable time
  • and the lowest committed slots in their Dunbar relationship capacity.

As we get older, we commit to certain people to be in our relational bandwidth (e.g. spouse, kids, friends, colleagues). This lowers the number of open slots in our Dunbar capacity (150 people).

Also, this higher level of commitment to certain people means more time spent with these people and therefore less disposable time spent on "new" things.

Also, this investment in relationship with some means less time for "new" relations.

Because of this, regardless of a person's views on social media or technology, the older we get the less inclined we are to anything that will connect us with "new" people to add to our personal social network.

So why am I such a big fan of social media? Because it enhances the network of relationships I ALREADY HAVE. This is usually what causes people to embrace new technology; it enhances their connection with those already in their Dunbar network.
So, every person (practically) has a cell phone. Why? Because it allows us to connect with everyone we are ALREADY committed to. Parents of teenagers are often more savvy with texting than people 25-35 because they use texting to connect with their kids.

This example of an "older" generation embracing a new technology illustrates the principle: social media is relevant to our current social network needs.

Since the character and needs of our current social network change over time, the relevance and usefulness of various social media tools will change as well.

People will embrace social media when they see how it will help them be better parents, spouses, friends, servants and professionals.

So I try to figure out how to help people envision how social media will enhance their current relationships and major on that when talking about social media.

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