A couple of times in the last few weeks I've given voice to a theory which I'd like to flesh out a little here.
I feel that human beings are social creatures by nature.
In our natural state we constantly chatter and make noise, giving voice to our emotions and feelings in order that others may react and support us. This is most naturally observed in children in a playground or classroom with no teacher, when we are completely relaxed in our surroundings, say in a restaurant or bar, or when we revert to this state under extreme pressure, for example at the scene of a large accident, or disaster.
We see, and take for granted, this behaviour in primates all the time, and I believe if you were to jump back a short time in our history you'd see it in us.
It's a perfectly natural state and allows us to become in tune with each other, work together and understand each others feelings and needs.
Yet now, for most of the time, it is subdued.
We have built houses, walls to isolate ourselves from our neighbours which limit our ability to casually socialise, and remove the usefulness of this chatter. We have our Victorian values: it's improper to mutter in public, it's dangerous to talk to strangers, it's unhealthy or even illegal to gather in large groups. Our culture dictates we should isolate ourselves at work in offices and cubicles. Talk is idle, productivity is silent.
We've just missed the fact that this is completely unnatural.
And so when opportunities arise for us to break away from these societal shackles, we do. When crowds can form, they will. Stop and listen to that noise in a busy restaurant, that chatter, we've been taught to perceive that as hundreds of individual conversations, and it is, but it's also much more than that, it's a social conversation, everyone is also listening to everyone else, if one table gets distressed, voices change in pitch, people turn, the mood changes. We are all aware.
And so it is with Social Media.
Online, more than anywhere else, we are reverting to our natural state. We're reforming tribes, crowds, muttering out loud, getting feedback from each othe, creating support structures, we're the chimpanzees of the internet. Removing the social and political constraints that stop us from talking to each other, devolving back several hundred thousand years to a simpler time. It's a beautiful thing to witness, everyone is listening to everyone else.
It's one of the single biggest social shifts in history. Power now stems from what you say, from who you are. Your social network will do things for you, they are your tribe, they share your values. We are witnessing the emergence of a new form of society online, with new rules. And those people involved right now are helping to shape it.
Isn't that exciting?