Social networks equal social behavior

Last week I posted some research that helped support an observation I’ve made in several different ways: When you want to know what people are doing on social networks, look at what they do in their analog lives.

The point is that we are rapidly moving into a post-digital framework for social interaction online. In this construct, consumers are so familiar with the technology tools that their focus on social goals is more prominent than their interest in exploring technological tools.

In this post-digital experience, the most interesting questions is to what degree the dynamic of technology-enabled social communities change identity and social mores.

e-Marketer shared the results of research done by Anderson Analytics, a market research firm, looking at how users across generations think about their primary reasons for using the social networks.

11A0EF8B-73F3-42B7-A236-C04140A2FC87.jpgThe research shows that these services are aptly names as “social” networks. Social connectedness is the key purpose of every generations engagement with the sites. For younger generations, the services help them strengthen their peer bonds with friends and classmates. As the generations age, their focus shifts to strengthening the bonds with their families. The concept of “fun,” enjoyment for the sake of enjoyment, is much more prominent with younger generations than older generations. I’d venture this is a by-product of each generation’s orientation to technology: the older generation generally needs to learn new skills to feel wholly engaged and comfortable with the social network, while the younger generation has grown up with both the skills and the orientation to the shifts in privacy, currency and relevance that can unsettle the older generation.

What do I mean by privacy, currency and relevance? These are three characteristics of social interaction that change in technology-enabled groups. Privacy is apparent: many more people can know much more about you, and your interactions with different sub-sets of your social network can be available to you entire network. Currency is the steady stream of immediate information about the social network that is available to you, reducing the time between experience and commenting on experience. Relevance is the breadth of information available across your social network, which can be at once highly relevant and utilitarian — the group will be at this place at this time — or equally irrelevant and of little apparent use — here’s my cousin Vito’s pet parrot.

The effectiveness of social networks in enhancing social relationships is a motivator for older generations to work past their initial discomfort and learn how to manage these new dimensions of post-digital interaction.