Online communities and behavioural psychology


As social media, connectivity and the web in general continue to evolve and transform our lives, the crossover between social media and behavioural science is becoming ever more evident. Even though I’m not a psychologist, I found the article written by Sean D. Young on TechCrunch a couple of days ago very thought-provoking.

Professor Young wrote about the ways people take part in online communities, and how these communities possess the capacity to change human behaviour. According to his observations, online communities have the potential to change human behaviour following their basic inner needs:

  1. The Need to Trust
  2. The Need to Fit In
  3. The Need for Self-Worth
  4. The Need to Be Rewarded for Good Behaviour
  5. The Need to Feel Empowered

On one hand, I’m not too keen about the idea of setting up communities with the aim to change their behaviour. As one of the commentators of the article above put it, it sounds a bit manipulative! On the other hand, this world consists of a constant clash of ideas, messages and millions of mini-communities. (It has been estimated we are exposed to 3,000 to 20,000 marketing messages a day!) The question then remains – is the idea that you are convinced about stronger than the rival idea? And – how will you convey your ideas to your online communities?

Mind-blowing stuff, for a Friday morning! I’ll leave you to think about it, and comment below, but before I leave here’s two comments from the article above which I think are worth attention:

Arnold Waldstein:

I think of this from the opposite side–not that you build communities to change behavior but that you platform certain behaviors and give them a voice.

Rafael Kireyev:

There’s no need to change the behavior of most people. I never get tired of repeating that each person is unique and unrepeatable. Thus, every online community will always be hopelessly fragmented but amazingly talented and originative. There’s only need to take a closer look and see this inartificial miracle.

© Ben Garney “Busy Train Station” Photo. Attribution 2.0 Generic

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