There’s an I in Twitter and a ME in Social Media

As we’ve learned time and time again, there is no “I” in team. Instead of focusing exclusively on “what’s in it for me,” we’re encouraged to contribute to the greater collective of groups in order to accomplish wonderful things – those usually unattainable by any one person.

Of course, this headline is a play on those words, but it also opens the door to an interesting conversation – one that explores a global network of connections weaved from both relations and relationships and bound through action and reaction.

I recently asked aloud who’s the me in social media as a way of escalating the discussion around the importance of what we do and say online and also what we don’t do or say and how these seemingly innocuous deeds contribute to the establishment of our Web identity.

Indeed, we cast digital shadows

However, with all we know about social media, we are ambivalent to its possibilities and its perils. Instead, we are seduced by the capacity to channel our inner-celebrity and as such, we’re intoxicated by the responses and relationships we earn by willfully sharing in public what was once deemed and coveted as private. The allure of becoming Internet Famous is not necessarily the aspiration of those who engage in social networks, but it is something that manifests either intentionally or unintentionally, almost becoming our certification for tweeting, commenting, posting, and sharing.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating observations that I’ve documented and something that continues to receive a significant focus of my attention, is the idea that through social media, we are creating a global society of digital extroverts, rich with individuals who are gaining confidence online and ultimately offline, by saying and sharing the very things that they might not have otherwise voiced in real life.

It’s almost a form of healthy self expression, combined with validation and a touch of self-actualization…

I Tweet, therefore I am…

I pay attention to the work of Dan Zarrella, a friend of mine who is also a social scientist of sorts. Most recently, I analyzed and shared his work in which he dissected the behavior and defining characteristics of retweets.

His most recent study examines how social behavior affects relationships on Twitter and certain activities contribute to the state of those who follow us.

Even though an “I” is absent from team, a “me” readily apparent. I believe that as social media evolves and matures, we need to focus less on the “me” in social media and more on the “we” in the social Web.

Now we have the data to prove it…

Zarrella drew a parallel connection between social language and followers. Using inclusive words such as “you” and “we” usually ties to a greater number of followers.

Ultimately, it’s how we value and in turn, continually invest in relationships that define who we are in the long term. The net result is that accounts with a greater number of followers tended to use social language more frequently than those who focus on the “I” in Twitter.

Concurrently, Zarrella also surveyed the relationship between narcissism and connections.

Those who tend to talk about themselves also possess a propensity to repel legions of prospective followers.

Emotions also play a role in how individuals form and cultivate relationships. Zarrella documented that people who share updates that are rooted in negative sentiment, such as sadness, aggression, derogatory commentary, etc., will find it difficult to increase their audience and their connections.

Sometimes we need to realize that inner monologue is a gift worth embracing…

We each possess an inherent and unique ability to make decisions governed by a moral compass. These decisions are now challenged by real-time architectures that entice us to say what we think, before we think it through. What we publish online says more about us than we know or we may realize. In an era where common sense may prove uncommon, an updated form of social psychology is necessary to learn and consequently teach netizens how to create their own destiny, centered by a relevant and meaningful social compass.

In a recent discussion with Dr. Drew Pinksey, he advocated a deep understanding of the importance of relationships in the real world in order to foster and cultivate meaningful connections online.

As much of this is so new, we are literally learning as we go. We share what moves us with an audience of people we know, those we wish to know, and those who desire to know us. Part of acting of course, is reacting, and it’s through those reactions that we learn the rules of engagement as well as the content and activities that engender reactions.

In many ways, the “me” in social media contributes to a stage of participation that at first blush, resembles an ecosystem of vanity, or something that I refer to as the egosystem. But it is this egosystem that has empowered each one of us to construct something truly significant.

The true latency of social media lies in our ability to continually connect meaning and relevance over time. After all, we are all in this together. The ability to publish information nowadays is not our true opportunity to gain prominence. Recognition and reciprocity are among the strongest forms of currency in the social Web and as such, we are measured by our actions and our words.

Never forget to pay it forward, it’s how you got here and it defines where you’re going.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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