Monday, April 2, 2012

What Helps People Share in a Meaningful Way?

Why do we share? What are our motivations for sharing? We hear a lot these days about the downside of sharing: Facebook posts can cause you to lose a job or interview; video streaming that globalizes the worst impulses of bigotry and prejudice, spur of the moment emails haunt someone for ever (and ever)...there are justifiable reasons to be wary of sharing.

You can argue we share too much. Perhaps we do. On the other hand, 21st Century computing technology allows us to share in wonderful everyday ways. We keep in touch with a colleague and his children on their Fulbright in Zambia, we receive photos from a relative who lives 1000 miles away, an elderly neighbor can download otherwise inaccessible newspapers to her tablet. Mundane? Maybe. Maybe not.

When was the last time you thought about the everyday ways you share and why you share?

Have you ever thought about why we share so much?

To share is to be human. Angel Anderson, a speaker at the UX Speakeasy Conference Saturday, knows quite well why we share and she shared the psycho-social motivations with her audience. I suspect one of the reasons people enjoyed her talk so much was that Angel bridged the human and the technological in a solid, thorough, in-depth manner and she was upbeat. Upbeat and engaging, in spite of fighting laryngitis and having to make good friends on stage with a bottle of red cough syrup.

Did you know, for example, that most of our sharing has positive evolutionary motivations behind it? We share to get things in return (reciprocation), to feel good, to feel validated (we can't survive without healthy egos), and for relationship building. We are a social species and we need our communities and our relationships with one another. We need them just as much today as we did 200,000 years ago.

Complaining can be a constructive form of sharing. After listening to Angel discuss this point, I was able to tune in to a great example that presented itself this morning. My yoga teacher told our class about the constructive outcomes that can be achieved when a student complains about an injury or a fear. When a student says "I have a weak shoulder" "I often hyper-extend my knees"  "I'm absolutely terrified of falling on my head", the teacher can offer physical adjustments, alternative poses, physical and psychological support. As a result, the student learns to stop torquing on her joints and doesn't fall on his head. These complaints present opportunities that must be voiced to come to fruition.

Angel shared additional in-depth insight into the motivations behind sharing, with the take home point that we need to understand these motivations so we can create great tools for sharing. Yes, "great". Angel used that word with gusto. Understanding the psychology of motivation lets the creator think about the types of relationships they want to foster with their app/tool/device/service. It is all about social landscapes.

Angel echoed the message of earlier speakers when she said that User Experience (UX) work is in an Age of Enlightenment. It has never been easier, deeper and faster to share - such an opportunity for creating meaningful interactions between people!

Ask yourself: "what helps people share in a meaningful way?"

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