On 13th October 2013, a Sunday, I put up a post on G+ titled “The G+ Sunday Read”. It was mostly unpremeditated and a direct response to my having spent a lot of that particular Sunday morning surfing through G+, consuming posts, scanning conversations, thinking about specific comments and, in the process, getting sucked down one rabbit hole after another.
The post was barely four paragraphs long and it got 29 comments, 204 +1s and 34 reshares. It sparked off conversations that lasted for days, helped some of us discover people who were sharing content and whom we hadn’t been aware of and it became a catalyst of sorts for an information cascade that led to some new knowledge, fresh ideas, new points of view and a lot of social contact.
It was also the beginning of the Sunday Read. A column that has grown in link-load, reach and depth. A work that has been published every Sunday with only two exceptions, both due to illness. A body of work that has been put together at home and on the go, gathered in snippets, triggered by events both local and remote, featuring, mostly, the workings of my mind as I fly from place to place and talk to people working in different cultures (and sometimes speaking different languages to mine).
Why? That’s a question I never really tackled before. Why have I felt compelled to do this to the point that when I don’t or, if I am late, as I am today, in the final G+ column, I really feel guilty; like I am letting people down?
The answer to that, of course, is both personal and professional.
But before we even get into that it is worth our while in this, last time, on G+ to examine the psychology of sharing. Sharing information, of course, is not new. We have all experienced the excitement that comes from the jumble of a social evening out when we all talk about all sorts of things and take twisting turns and deep dives into all sorts of mental and psychological alleys before we resurface to laugh over something trivial.
We do all this because it is part of the way our brain forms impressions, validates data, establishes trustworthiness in others and determines how the world works and how we can then, function better. It is, of course, nothing but data which is subject to the 4Vs of all data sharing - [Volume, Velocity, Variety and Veracity]. Yet, from that, our cognitive behavior establishes complex probe, question, test and verify subroutines which are expressed in all the social interactions we see, both online and offline.
A New York Times backed study on why we share content revealed that part of the drive was to inform and be informed. Social sharing of information is an intrinsic human activity that is core to our identity establishment efforts. In that respect, the emotional broadcaster model suggests that we share what most affects us which makes sense from an understanding of the world perspective.
Social media is the latest expression of an ancient communication drive. We are becoming better at understanding how all this works and, by association, how we work; which allows us to better understand what we do and why we do it.
Which brings it back to me. Professionally (to start backwards, for once) this is what I do. As a writer I need an audience. Writing is how I primarily express what I discover, think and believe in so this is, for me, part of who I am and what I do. But that, though logical, is not the whole picture. The things I write here and the areas I explore are both broader and deeper than most of my professional writing. So to answer, truly, “why?” I have to explore deeper and ask myself how I feel. A hint is given by the fact that content that is awesome and awe-inspiring does better in terms of engagement and interaction, sharing and re-sharing than content that might be perhaps more useful but not as inspirational.
In trying to inspire others because we have been inspired ourselves we are also, subconsciously perhaps, acting as each other’s cheer leaders. We try, through content sharing and the activities that it precipitates (connection, conversations, information-sharing and ideas-exchange) to form the social safety net that creates a sense of community. A space where we can grow and help others do the same.
That, for me, is the real reason. Having discovered by accident, through that first, serendipitous post, how much the things I see and think resonate, this has become my way of forming the culture I want to live in and the world I want to see.
In case you think that it is a form of imposing my values on the world let me reassure you that it is anything but. Just like you, I struggle to understand what it is I have to do, what I must do and what I should do. When and how. I seek reassurance. I want to be challenged. I want to feel that what I believe in is part of an evolving matrix of beliefs that mark the human condition. To do this I expose, each week, my own mind and beliefs, explain what I find in terms of corroborative evidence and openly share what has excited me not so I can just excite you too, though I hope this column does, but because the discussion, the sharing, the comments, the ideas and the beliefs become the social net we weave around our figurative camp fire.
As we do this we engage cognitive and psychological parts of us that are ancient in their origin. We create narratives and form memories. We increase knowledge and develop new associations. And, we have fun.
That G+, was able to give us that space to do all this, is nothing less than magical. As it winds down as this becomes a farewell to it, I hope that we can continue the conversation. I shall renew my commitment to this column every Sunday in its new home. In the comments there we can perhaps learn to explore, once more, all this and reweave new ties that bind.
I know the world is changing. I know you experience the effects of that change even when you cannot quantify the reasons. Without a doubt we live in historic times. Feeling our way through all this will take everything we can do to maintain our own mental and psychological equilibrium. I sincerely hope that each Sunday Read is one small contribution to this.
To say that I have grown too from this column is to understate. Make no mistake. Each interaction and each word has been part of a connection I have felt. No relationship is monodirectional. To all of you who have stuck with me on this, in G+ I wish to extend a massive “Thank You”. I could not have wished for a better audience or more genuine people, ever.
It’s been an interesting five year run. Here’s to the next five years.
I know you have done your bit because coffee prices have remained steady and the donut, croissant, cookies and chocolate cake industry is still thriving. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.