This past week a heartfelt-comedy video has been circling the interwebs. The video chronicles the life of a comedienne living a hyperbolized life of friends with smart phone addiction. Nick Bilton’s piece in the New York Times ponders the success and message of the video and makes a some conclusions (many of which are regarding the connection between media and food).
The question is “Why does it seem that people are obsessed with their phones and social media?” I liked the piece, but I’d like to add a few more concepts to the discussion … namely Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE), and strong/weak ties. These concepts have helped me recently parse the idea.
First, psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out that one of the five major motivations of humanity is to be social (physical, safety, social, esteem, self-actualization). Once our basic physical and safety needs are met, we are designed in such a way as to crave connection. We are social beings; we need others … something that says I’m not alone.
Second, social science and communication researchers have given us the social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE). Basically this says that without other non-verbal cues present, we fill in the blanks about others with our own guesses about them. In short, we tend to form idealized versions of “the other” through computer-mediated communication because we lack the immediate cues to tell us otherwise. Our computer friends are the best friends because they are in part figments of our imagination.
Third, one sociological phenomenon is described as strong ties versus weak ties. Basically, people have strong relationships and weak relationships … and we generally tend to maintain strong ties rather than develop weak ties. This is the path of least resistance in relationship formation.
When I ask myself, “Why do people seem addicted to their smart phones and social media?”, these ideas give me at least a framework to approach the question:
- People act this way with their phones because we have a deep urge to be socially connected.
- People act this way because their online friends are the best friends that anyone could ever imagine … because they are somewhat imagined.
- People act this way because it’s more comfortable to interact with the strong ties rather than interact with the weak-tied, scary world around them.
There is obviously more to this than these three … but these at least help me to think about the issue.
Okay … that’s enough rambling for the morning … I should probably put down my screen and enjoy some real-world Labor Day with my family. =)