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06 2010

Is Social Networking The Chicken Or The Egg?

Posted in Social Media | 2 comments

What is fueling the astounding growth of social networking sites—in particular Facebook?

Is it the fact that the technology simply exists and we are taking advantage of it?

Or is the technology just a tool fueled by a deep-seated emotion for people around the world to connect?

Chicken?  Or egg?

A few years ago, I had the incredible fortune to travel around the world with one of my clients, ASSA ABLOY.  Based in Stockholm, Sweden, ASSA ABLOY is the world’s leading lock company, made up of some of the world’s best-known lock companies like Yale.

As one of the leaders in the field of security, ASSA ABLOY wanted to find out what the word ‘security’ really meant to people in a post 2001 world.

So, we set off to talk to hundreds of people in dozens of countries including Australia, China, France, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and, of course, the United States.

The results were staggering.  What was clear was that people were indeed seeking security, but not physical security.

The ultimate theme that emerged through hundreds and hundreds of conversations?

People were yearning to connect.  To connect with friends, family—but also strangers.  To share interests and ideas.  To find comfort in the company of humanity.

Importantly, this study PREDATED the creation of sites like FACEBOOK. We conducted this study just before the social networking train pulled out of the station.

Today, we all marvel at the technology that has brought social networking alive.

I wonder sometimes if we are marveling at the wrong thing.  Maybe we should marvel at the worldwide need of humanity to connect with one another. A need which has fed the flames of technology.  A need which has resulted in over 350 MILLION people to connect on Facebook.

Social networking could not have happened without the technology obviously.  But the social networking wildfire would never have burned as brightly without people around the world and their intense desire to connect.

So chicken?  Or egg?  Or does it even matter?  One thing for sure-I doubt we will see such an extraordinary convergence between people’s desire to connect and technology anytime soon.

  1. Mark says:

    Good point. If – as I’ve argued for the best part of decade – you accept that ours is a “we” and not an “I” species, then the answer is straightforward: our extraordinary success as a species is based on our amazing social nature. Social Media is just the latest opportunity to indulge ourselves.

  2. Jeff Webster says:

    Susan, I look back at the universal adoption of cell phones as the event that drove this desire to connect. Once upon a time people used to drive on their commute to work, listening to music or talk radio or daydreaming. Others rode public transportation reading their favorite book or the daily newspaper. Now many people still did these things, but a large percentage preferred to fill that space in time with a phone conversation with a family member or friend. I never fell into this group and often wondered why people had this need to be perpetually connected to one another.

    Social networking has just taken this notion of “connecting” to another level, as it catalyzes an individual’s ability to connect in real-time with everyone in their social graph. It’s a living breath sociology experiment and I’m excited to see how it evolves.