In a 2006 interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio, Dustin Hoffman recalled a dinner he had with the late Laurence Olivier.
“I said, ‘What’s the reason we do what we do?’” Hoffman remembered asking Olivier.
Olivier leaned across the table, pressed his face nearly nose to nose with the young Hoffman, and said, “Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.” (You can find the clip at about 2:35 in this video.)
What Olivier was saying—albeit in a cartoonishly theatrical way—was that people want recognition. Actors do it for the attention, directors do it for the attention, writers do it for the attention, and so on. More to the point, they do it for the acknowledgment.
But Olivier’s theory extends beyond actors and narcissists. Most people want to be acknowledged. And studies based on social media usage show us that such a desire is about more than a simple stroke of the ego; most people want to share themselves and seek out feedback to feel connected.
In mid-2014, Dr. Stephanie Tobin of the University of Queensland School of Psychology published a pair of studies that linked the use of social media and social media feedback (likes) to feelings of belonging and a sense of connectedness.
“Our research shows that feelings of belonging are threatened when users stop generating content or participating online, and when information they have posted does not receive a response from others,” Tobin explained to UQ News.
She went on to say, “The results clearly identified that active participation is necessary to decrease feelings of social rejection.”
Sharing through a collaborative environment (whether external or internal enterprise social) builds connections between people. And the University of Queensland isn’t the only organization releasing such data. In fact, New York Times Insights found, based on survey results, that 73 percent of people share information because it helps them connect with others who share their interests. Overall, they concluded that people share content:
Beyond content that helps build networks, the same survey found that a vast majority (73 percent) process information more deeply, thoroughly, and thoughtfully when they share it. Additionally, 68 percent said they share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.
And the reasons that people share in their personal lives apply to work as well.
People not only feel the need to share their ideas, they need to receive feedback. This is an essential part of the internal publishing environment. We share because we want to build networks and flesh out our ideas, but we do so with the hope and belief that the community will respond. After all, a shared idea doesn’t do much good for anyone if it’s thrown into oblivion and left to die with nary a like or comment.
At Carpool, we are always aware of the circular nature of content and the flow of information. Formal content, like an internal article or blog, is fine on its own, but within the context of a network it takes on new life. Communities and informal conversations can empower the formal content, just as the formal content can, in turn, stir new conversations within the community.
When we publish our thoughts, either on an enterprise social network or intranet, we’re saying, “Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.” But it’s just as incumbent upon the network to respond, “I see you. I see you. I see you. I see you.”