Tag Archive for 'psychology'

How Twitter is using psychology to bootstrap an unbelievable trend

The core activity of Twitter compels its users to act in ways that makes them forget about what they are really doing.

When I first came to accept that lifelogging was an upcoming trend, I thought how the hell would people allow that to happen? Lifelogging (or lifestreaming as I prefer to call it) is a constant stream of your life, in a way that is reminiscent of the Truman Show. Put yourself in the mindset of someone in 1995, 2000 or even 2005 – and imagine if someone said: "One day, you will make public your inner most thoughts about the world". What would your response be? I would have probably laughed in disbelief.

Stalker

How people get caught into the river of lifestreaming
The Facebook homescreen (which came to life in late 2006), certainly gave the lifestreaming concept a big jump forward by forcing it on their users. Arguably, you could say blogs started it all – but it’s not quite the same as what Twitter is creating.

With Twitter, people usually start hesitantly and confused. They send messages, and drop a few personal insights into their life, because they realise that’s what other people are doing. As they acquire followers, they develop a more persistent relationship with their service. They realise the value of connecting with new people, which happens as they develop their social melebrity status. There is a sense of status in the fact hundreds of people willingly follow you – with status being a core human aspiration. They get hungry: they want more followers.

How a race distracts from the behaviour you then permit
What Aston Kutcher did is typical of what all Twitter users do, albeit on a smaller scale (ie, increase their following). The fascinating thing about this, is that people forget that they are now chasing an endless tail, which further entrenches them into the lifestreaming phenomenon.

Twitter requires people to explicitly share. The focus on this core activity, makes people attempt to create a witty message or one that people value. They get caught up in participating in lifestreaming, completely forgetting and then accepting (if confronted) what they’ve lost.

That being, we’ve now given up the thing people most freak out about in electronic communications: our anonymity and privacy in the world.

As more and more people get onto Twitter, and as more celebrities get caught up in it which will bring the non-tech world into the fold – watch this phenomenon. The natural cycle of a Twitter user, which eventuates in follower acquisition to increase their sense of status, is actually opening up a world I never thought would actually happen.
One where we share our inner most thoughts and details in life, because psychologically, we feel compelled to.

Truman show exit

Think about that last sentence for a bit. That’s kind of crazy.

Grand thinking requires space, flexibility and time.

Grand thinking requires space, flexibility and time.” Our fast-paced life has forgotten that reflection is a very important concept for not just quality in our work, self-improvement, and ultimately innovation – but also for our health.

More people need realise that a person has to slow down, if they want to go further. Having said that though, if “thinking” is so easy – why don’t we have more great ideas? The quiet engine of the mind works just as hard – people just don’t recognise the effort being expended because you’re not sweating.

The power of feedback

Validation of a persons self-worth is a key aspect of being human. Why do we like praise, but not criticism? Because the former validates our self-esteem, the latter contradicts it. Insecure people tend to seek more validation from other peoples opinions – because they need other peoples opinions to validate their self-esteem. Wonder why the modest don’t boast? It’s because their validation is not derived from having to tell you so that you know. They already know you know, and if you don’t agree, they don’t care – they’re self validated.

However no matter how secure you are with yourself, everyone loves a bit of validation – it’s just some people need it more than others, or possibly, we all have different ways in how we validate ourselves. Some fish for compliments on their looks; others validate themselves through great achievements. Validation of who we are, is what drives almost everything we do. That’s why an atheist should never bag out religion to a believer – the argument about whether God exists is irrelevant; what is relevant, is that by criticising the existance of a religious establishment, you are actually criticising a person’s self-identity that has been built on that establishment, by effectively de-validating their belief system.

Motivation systems are complex, and I by no means claim to be an expert – but I do know, that the power of feedback is one of the most effective ways of motivating an individual, especially when it comes to content creation. In the context of web-services, recognition and validation are key: people will stick around on your site, if they feel a greater sense of self-worth because of it.

There are two ways people feel validated on online communities: analytics and responses. Analytics in the sense of statistics: page and profile views, unique visitors, popular content. Most bloggers arn’t really making money out of their blog – so why is software that provides statistics on their readership so popular? Because knowing people read your blog, is a form of validation. A bit like how an insecure teenage girl feels validated by the attention she myspace profilegets from sleazy older men. Right now, I am writing this blog entry because a reader asked if I could write more about the interaction between psychology and successful web start-ups. His comment validated my opinions, spurring me to write more on the subject.

Likewise, Myspace users will post a “Thanks for adding me” comment on a new friend. Why? Because it means more people will visit their profile. The reason I can say there are ulterior motives to just thank someone, is because they could have said “thanks for adding me” as a private message. So it then begs the question of why do they want more people to visit their profile? Because people get an ego boost seeing their page count go up.

Statistics to something you’ve created, are a quiet form of feedback. The more views, the more validated you feel by that. Popularity is a great feeling!

A second type of validation, is a bit more direct: it’s through the interactions with people. When people create content – photos, blog postings, whatever – nothing is more satisfying for them than a comment.

Features like Flickr’s recent activity are also apparently, what makes it so addictive. Again – it’s a form of validation. By responding to something someone has created, you are giving value to that creation – that feedback can make someone justify the effort, by providing recognition.

Sometimes the most powerful way a boss can keep their employees satisfied, is by a simple “thank you”. Recognition for effort expended by someone, can sometimes be all that someone needs to keep going.

Think you have a killer web2.0 app? You might. But unless a user feels like they are getting feedback on their existance and content creation, their first visit will likely also be their last. Feedback feels good. People want to feel good. So go and make them feel good about themselves.

People think like two-year-olds

A few thoughts:

1) Property ownership is one of the central tenets of capitalism.

2) At work, I am involved in a special assignment. Throughout the initiative, I’ve caused a lot of friction with various groups because it was perceived that I was infringing on their “territory”.

3) Myspace allows users to customise their profile however they want. And people do.

4) My two-year old niece is going though a stage where everything is “hers”.

5) Capitalism works better than any other economic system; my firm is very successful as an organisation; Myspace is a run-away hit; my niece is a happy baby.

Notice a trend? The only difference between you and a toddler is that you don’t say “mine” every time someone takes your toy. Want to get peoples’ support or to buy your product? Then remember this: property and giving people a sense of ownership is how us humans work. We take comfort in what we can control.

The reason for success on social networking sites

Friendster was the first site I noticed the “post a comment” feature now so prevalent on the social networking sites. I remember thinking it was a way for others to know what your reputation was (like eBay). Interesting, but no big deal I thought – I couldn’t imagine it being used that often.

Then MySpace came around.

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