How Social Platforms Change the Way We Act and Think Online



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While humans have adapted intellectually to the pace of progress in the modern world, our instincts have changed very little in 20,000 years. We may now be able to work iPhones, but emotionally we still live in the Stone Age.

Social media is rapidly becoming a surrogate for the traditional communities that once kept us emotionally stable – and this has huge implications for everyone, from you and me, to global companies, to the future of the planet.

Patrick Mulford, Chief Creative Officer at theAudience, took the Social Media Week Chicago stage to talk about what we all want to know about why people act the way they do online.

Below are some takeaways from the session. To watch the entire talk, plus access more than 100 hours of other SMW events, presentations, and interviews, sign up for SMW Insider.

We’re social animals and we crave a forum for conversation. These conversations contain ideas and thoughts we want to communicate from one person to another – when you think about it, you even dream in stories – stories make complex content easier to understand.

The people around you informed your identity. With so many people around us, we’re chopping and changing our identities – we are able to change so quickly and change our identity online. Social media networks are living organisms.

“Everything that you post tells a vital truth that you want to share to your social network.”

“Social media is becoming a framework for our reality – we all want to be individual – our experiences, all the things that makes us slightly different. Social media is the new bedroom wall – Facebook is a generic persona for people – LinkedIn is how you want to be perceived professionally, Snapchat is ‘me in the moment’, Pinterest is an aesthetic and Instagram is more of an idealized life.”

Why do we post on social?

We’re looking for validation and reassurance. Did you know that the brain copes with rejection are the same as physical pain. Whenever someone likes your posts, it’s like sending a virtual hug to them.

74% of all brands could disappear and consumers wouldn’t care. Nobody really cares about brands in social, it’s about the value that it shares. One of the most viewed campaign videos for a brand doesn’t once show the companies product.

Session Takeaways:

  • Social Media is a living ecosystem, rather than a marketing platform. It’s become a surrogate for traditional social networks that have fragmented over time.
  • People only use social for four reasons:
    • To socialize
    • To tell stories
    • To frame their personal and social reality
    • To seek validation

Social allows us to evaluate what’s important in the world and a brand is only ever as important as the values it represents; values that lend meaning and identity to our existence.

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