The Science of the Share; Why Social Discovery Gives Us a Rush

The Science of the Share; Why Social Discovery Gives Us a Rush

Viral facebook postsWhen you feel good about something you want to share it. If your sharing makes another person feel good, then you get the feedback that the share was a positive experience. So what motivates us to share, like, forward, promote in social media?

I want to tell you about my latest discovery. I want to give you the good news from last night. I think if I’m the first person to hip you to a new idea then you will think i’m smart, you will find me more attractive, and you might return the favor.

Sharing something online is about being one of the cool people, for example: “I’ve just discovered this band Broken Bells, if you liked the Shins you have to check out this video…”

Sharing something online is about being an “expert” or at least an informed participant, for example: “Facebook LIKEs and FANs result in an extra 20 website visits a year.” — from HitWize

Sharing something online can be just for the laugh, “I keep going back to Klout to see if my score changed. It hasn’t. Damn you people get on it, give me some POINTS.” OR just for the self-depreciating chuckle “If I grow up, I’m gonna write TWEETS for a living…” OR for political comment “We’re trying to kill Gaddafi. No duh! To me, he looks pretty dead already. (Uh this isn’t going to start a jihad or anything is it?)”. [The previous paragraph contained real tweets, generated and spread within the last 24 hours.] And my favorite nonsensical tweet: “I’m going to tweet a secret that I’ve never shared with just a few thousand people before.”

But we are sharing for something. For feedback perhaps. Or something called “connection.” Remember the kids in high school that got to see the RUSH concert on a school night and they wore the black t-shirts the next day? Social sharing is kind of like that. An instant tribe of like minded people and potential friends.

A fancy word for sharing these days is curating. As in, I am “curating the chaos of the internet for my followers.” And products like paper.li lend credence to this self-hyped grandiosity. Mostly, I believe, we are sharing to see reflections of ourselves and our beliefs. And after sharing, we listen to hear if anybody responds and wants to join our tribe. Even for a few minutes, a few tweets, or a few random facebook updates.

Honestly, the web is a pretty cold place. You’re not gonna get a hug or a cuddle via Facebook. (the virtual kind ((hugs)) doesn’t cut it.) But you might get a rush when someone RTs your tweet. (RT = ReTweet)

And sometimes, for no reason known to business, something you post on your Facebook update “goes viral.”

poetry on facebook, my viral post

This thread went on for 38 comments. No business was generated from this exchange. Nothing was promoted or linked to. And for reasons unknowable, people, “friends,” were contributing to a poem (limerick perhaps) on Facebook.

And I think the poetic tribal gathering was summed up nicely in the final two comments.

why do people contribute to silly meme ideas on facebook?

And that was the 37th and 38th comment. And the moment was done. And I would guess that everyone that participated got a few rushes of social serotonin. A tiny spark of joy that someone else out there, in the huge interwebz, liked or commented on something you wrote.

Tweet be with you.

+++ this post has been refreshed from 2011, enjoy your summer +++

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Two other viral facebook posts of little or no value beyond the grin.

facebook viral thread, a girl in her undershirt

Jennifer’s jag went on for 19 comments.

And this was one of my favorites, the random made up word challenge.

viral facebook comment is about a made up word

This one got 19 comments for no reason at all.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Seems to be one of the things the internet is really good for – forming virtual tribes. If the analogy holds, then, social media users (and app makers) should be studying the anthropology to understand the dynamics, roles etc etc. 

    1. Again, I agree. Tribes are what we are creating with follows and LIKES and now Pluses. And we can learn a lot from the study of ritual and ceremony to guide our enhanced apps.

        1. Unless, of course, (pause) it is a tribe of wizardy.

    2. Again, I agree. Tribes are what we are creating with follows and LIKES and now Pluses. And we can learn a lot from the study of ritual and ceremony to guide our enhanced apps.

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