April 13, 2010

Forever Jung: What Makes Social Media Social



Let's introduce a new unusual suspect into the social media discussion. His name, C.G. Jung, who said "...there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals."

Think about that. I'll come back to our Swiss doctor friend, and I have to tell you that he was in my mind when one of the discussion lists I belong to had a recent and spirited exchange regarding an alternative name for "social media." The dialogue was festooned with imaginative offerings, but there seemed to be a lot of confusion regarding exactly what social media is all about.

I'd like to throw my hat in the ring in a vain attempt to describe this elusive phenomenon. Let me start by citing some examples of social media cause and effect, and then possibly we can develop a better working definition.

In 2009, the video clip that garnered the highest number of online views featured Susan Boyle of "Britain's Got Talent" fame. Reportedly, her video was seen by more than 165 million people. Back when the Hula Hoop was first introduced to the American market, word of mouth created a buying frenzy that resulted in the sale of over 25 million Hula Hoops in the first 4 months! And on one day (12/18/09) Ashton Kutcher tweeted 13 times for an accumulated number of impressions to followers totaling 53,770,561. Add re-tweets to the equation and Kutcher's reach and potential influence was overwhelming.

A couple of other disparate yet similar examples are in order: In 1979, Khomeini created audio recordings from his exile in France. These recordings, along with numerous related speeches and sermons, were widely distributed throughout Iran, feeding a revolution that overthrew the US supported monarchy. And of course, who can deny that Rock 'n Roll spread like wildfire throughout the world in the sixties. Now, if you find yourself scratching your head and wondering what a viral video, a plastic hoop that sold for $1.98, a celebrity tweeter, Rock 'n Roll and the Iranian revolution have in common, take heart because you are not alone. In fact, if we invoke the old master, Carl Gustav Jung, we just might be able to get our arms around this social media thing.

But before we do, please note that every one of the social constructs listed above employed, indeed required, different tools. From online video, word of mouth, audio cassettes, etc., the technologies were distinctly different from each other. We spend so much of our time discussing and analyzing our tools, we sometimes lose sight of what it is we're trying to build. It's like describing an appendectomy by its tools: scalpel, laparoscope, forceps, etc.


As my opening quote here attests, Jung believed that there is something that binds all of humanity. We are all part of the family of man to be sure. But Jung believed that we are connected to each other in more than just a physical sense. Jung went way beyond the concept of human biological similarities, noting that many cultures share symbols and archetypes. It is this act of sharing that produces the social contract we have with ourselves and each other.


There is something truly primordial that binds us; a vibrational connection that we acknowledge as having "stuck the right chord". Consider again the anecdotes above and you will see this psychological "second system" manifest in each of them. Rather than obsess about the tools that enable "social media", or worse, confuse the tools with the objective, we would do well to understand what we are trying to accomplish. So here I go with a humble attempt to define "social media."

Social media attempts to transcend "one-to-one communication" by tapping into the shared psychic system described by Jung as the collective unconscious. We share media for compelling personal and/or social reasons. The message or information shared reverberates (vibrational?) not just inside the individual, but among and within the collective.


The more a message resonates, the more "social" it becomes. We have many "tools" to facilitate this sharing: email, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Reddit, etc. But it's imperative that we not confuse our tools with our goals. It is the connection to the "second psychic system" that remains the essential component of "social media". Understanding this reintroduces the notion that what we say is more important than how we say it. Empty messages don't connect because the collective deems them not worth sharing. But who -- even a radical Ayatollah -- doesn't like a nice Hula Hoop?

About Jaffer Ali
Jaffer Ali is CEO of Vidsense, The Video Snack Network. With more than 100,000 advertiser-friendly video clips licensed from major film and TV studios, the Vidsense Video Snack Network of more than 30,000 safe-for-work websites delivers millions of qualified visitors directly to advertiser websites on a pure Pay-Per-Visitor (PPV) basis.

For more information about Vidsense, please contact Mr. Ali at j.ali@evtv1.com.

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