The social networking hierarchy of needs

Posted on March 25, 2008
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Last night I stumbled across (as opposed to stumbling upon) a year-old blog post that mentioned a web user’s hierarchy of needs, and immediately thought about recasting it as to climbing up today’s online social networking hierarchy of needs.  And after creating the items in the graphic below, I searched online today and found someone down under had also posted today around the idea.  Laurel Papworth took Maslow’s actual hierarchy and was applying it to social networking sites (SNS).

The approach below was a twist in coming up with a new hierarchy of social needs, and including some humorous ones for effect.  See if you like it, and if it gets you thinking about where you might be in the pyramid:

Online Social Hierarchy of Needs 2008

Somewhere between the second and third levels (from the bottom) is when someone starts to “get” social networking.  Even if you get it in concept before you join a network, it’s like reading about swimming in the ocean and tasting the salt water in the summer sun.  You have to do it or it’s all theory.  The post from last month also illustrates that many people are looking for the value in social networking.

Recent posts from spiritual social networking site Spirituality.org also discuss the hierarchy of needs and their upcoming launch of a community which aims in part to use the web & technology to help the attainment of self-actualization.

Arguably (by me at least!) it can be said that people connect to the internet as the first step into the online social heirarchy of needs.  The moment someone first exchanges email, or visits a website, or has an IM conversation, they are connecting in some sort of social way.  Even a visit to a corporate website is connecting to content written by a real human (most of the time).

And the web has been successful in the last 10+ years precisely because it allows social interaction.  What are the killer apps online today?  Multi-player games, video-sharing sites, communities.  What were some of the killer apps of 10 years ago?  Webmail, IM, and primitive (by today’s standards) community sites such as Geocities.  All having an aspect of social connectedness.

And 10 years from now?  With the “web” already becoming a more distributed platform, including mobile, IM, streaming video and podcasting which don’t require a web browser, the social-connecting aspect will continue to grow.  In 10 years offline social will be even more integrated into online social, as demonstrated by emerging technology that today can tell you if your online friends are nearby in the physical world.

The version above is the 2008 First Draft, and a second draft is possible (and will be linked here if it happens).

This posts ends with a question: what is the end-state for social activity online, for you or for the online community at large?

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