We are all soft-wired for Social Media

RSA Empathy NORTH
Click the image to watch this animated speech.

The title to this post is somewhat tongue in cheek, but not entirely. In a fascinating speech at RSA - the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Jeremy Rifkin, the bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet, investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. He argues that all humans and most primates are soft-wired to be empathic and that the first mature empathic drive is to actually "fit in," to "belong."

As we watch the animated video of Rifkin's speech, he walks us through history explaining how the human brain has developed to actually be more empathic. This all leads up to his modern day example of how during the Haiti earthquake, human empathy was fueled due to the images we received via social media such as Twitter, and also through mobile devices. This in turn led to people of all nations coming together to help the Haitians.

The understanding of anthropology as a driver of our innate need to belong and be part of a group, helps us understand how a platform like Twitter or Facebook can attract millions of users who spend a lot of time interacting with friends and family. I wrote an essay about just this in 2008 which I recently updated - Anthropology, Technology, The Social Web and Advertising.