Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the category “Happiness”

The Pop Psychology of Twitter

What is the psychology behind our use of Twitter? Why does it work for its increasing millions of users?

I love the fact that there’s already a fair body of analysis already. John Grohol does a great initial post on the Psychology of Twitter and a follow-up Psychology of Twitter Part 2, that nicely summarises some other thoughts. I’m pleased to flag that my post here is one of those that applies the Psychology 101ish Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in a blunt way as an introduction. Moses Ma does a far more advanced analysis than me with Understanding the Psychology of Twitter and goes on to analyse More on the Psychology of Twitter, including neuroscience and psycholinguistics!

This is quite a functional post I’ve had in bits of draft for a month or so, and is a bit of a sledgehammer analysis I want to refine over time. The thing that’s nagged away, and eventually pushed me into pulling this together is because my tiny amount of knowledge about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs800px-maslows_hierarchy_of_needssvg comes back to me whenever I see a comment from someone who ‘doesn’t get’ Twitter (or those of us who use it at varying levels of intensity, and wonder why)

It is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in a 1943 paper. I’ve always liked it particularly in a work/management context as a really simple guide to assessing the needs of individuals I’ve been managing. I also like it because of how well challenged it is.

Looking at the layers in the diagram from bottom to top, the first four are known as deficiency needs. The top layer often referred to as the only real motive: the aesthetic need. The aim of realizing one’s own maximum potential and possibilities. It was originally argued that needs are fulfilled sequentially from bottom to top. Subsequently this has been challenged and embellished: particularly using the concept of the ‘starving artist’ who ignores deficiency needs for the aesthetic.

As a full set of human needs I think it works quite well. None obviously come to my mind that ‘modern society’ is causing to advance or mutate (again, one of the arguments against the theory). Quite simply, I think it can be used as a needs checklist to assess an individual’s status. I use the word status to deliberately not apply either the subjectivity or judgement of using the word ‘deficiency’, and to avoid presupposing that an individual wants a need fulfilled (the starving artist point)

So to Twitter.

Well, for whatever grand claims, your ‘Physiological’ and ‘Safety’status are unlikely to be directly impacted by Twitter (although I suppose any communication medium can aid relationship forming  and the subsequent ‘physical’ side that could come with it…………..). Your ‘Safety’ status, particularly in relation to employment and resources, could be argued to be being increasingly impacted by Twitter as business and recruitment tools and self-branding methodologies are developed.

Without meaning the statement to be over sensationalist, or over-extending for the sake of a blog post, I think ‘Love/ Belonging’, ‘Esteem’ and ‘Self-actualization’ are facilitated by the nature of the tool itself (in terms of its ease of use, immediacy, 140 character limitations/ opportunities and multiple channels/ mediums): you don’t need to invest much to get a return if you have a need.

As best illustrated by two statements in the Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell book, Human Givens:

‘we cannot be mentally healthy if we’re isolated’ and ‘one human given is that we are social creatures and need connection to a group of people who accept us’,

whether you have a deficient need or not, Twitter breaks down the barriers. It opens up a global set of conversations. Whether you’re alone or engaging in a different conversation than the people surrounding you at that time, it enables a connection. Your perceptions of others and respect from others can shift tremendously with the right contribution: but globally. The boundary-less relationships speed up. As with many aspects of online life,  preconceptions, limiting beliefs, filters, restricting values and predjudices can be effectively removed by the substance of someone’s contribution. This recognition or engagement in turn can drive self-esteem, confidence and sense of achievement.

Spontaneity and creativity of thought are massively facilitated if you choose to participate with any expectation of engagement/ popularity because your balance of contribution has to be the same as in any successful interaction within a social grouping: both personal and valuable. Mass morality has been let further off the leash via the rapid feedback and ‘wildfire’ nature of the tool. Social media loosened the collar and now live feed and interaction is taking participation around common human values to the next level.

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Brain Training When We Only Have a Neanderthal Syllabus

Brainy People by Sanja Gjenero

Brainy People by Sanja Gjenero

The difficult balance we have to manage as human animals with a brain of two hemispheres is contrasted well in Will’s comment. Independent but obviously joined and synergistic. It’s how well we know about how the different personalities of our brain work together that is one of the roots of our personal effectiveness and success.

The planned, logical and rigorous administrator on the left wants to analyse, intepret and categorise. It gives a script to our experience of the world and our interactions within it.

The creative, artistic lateral thinker on the right wants to muse, develop, connect and expand. It experiences our world and our interactions within it, and is the source of apparently independent creative thoughts, ideas and constructions.

The administrator and the artist live together very happily for the purposes of you being born, living a life and dieing. Whether you have optimised either your happiness or potential greatness over this lifespan (assuming a positive desire to do this) is a matter of better understanding:

– how the artist and administrator work together best as a team. Their preferences, strengths and weaknesses: how they can organise themselves better to bring out the best of each other

– how they conflict. Their allowable weaknesses (in Belbin’s terms) are best handled when transparent, articulated and understood (without emotion or frustration)

– how your conscious handling of their other-than-conscious behaviours can also help improve their relationship and productivity as a unit – or not

Each of these three bullets is at least a shelf of potential books in your local bookstore. Add in the extra dimensions of personal preferences/ personality type/ psychometrics and energy levels/ chemical mood impacts, and you end up with a smörgåsbord of levers/ techniques/ aspects to manage. Throw in the fact that this analysis is framed by only a conscious assessment of the tip of the neuroscience iceberg. That we have both the rest of the visible (current consciously understood) iceberg to explore, as well as the vast depths underwater.

It may mean it is a long time before we are capable of consciously understanding how to optimise our happiness or potential greatness.

Further thought: Interesting research ‘The human brain is on the edge of chaos’

Strokes of Insight

Enduring insights from My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, because so much has been replaying in my mind (the following should be read as direct ‘quotes’ with some interpretation at points):
– The limbic system places an effect, or emotion, on information streaming in through our senses
– Our higher cortical cells mature …. and gain the ability to take “new pictures” of the present moment. When we compare the new information of our thinking mind with the automatic reactivity of our limbic mind, we can reevaluate the current situation and purposely choose a more mature response
– I allow myself to remember that all of my thoughts are merely fleeting physiology
– it only took 90 seconds for my bichemistry to capture and then release me
– sensory information streams in through our sensory systems and is immediately processed through our limbic system. By the time a message reaches our cerebral cortex for higher thinking, we have already placed a feeling upon how we view that stimulation – is this pain or is this pleasure
– when an incoming situation is perceived as familiar, the amygdala (whose primary job is to scan all incoming stimulation in this immediate moment and determine the level of safety – fear/ rage response) is calm and the adjacently positioned hippocampus (learning and memory) is capable of learning and memorizing new information
– we are feeling creatures that think (rather than thinking creatures that feel)
– when we experience feelings of sadness, joy, anger, frustration or excitement, these are emotions that are generated by the cells of our limbic system

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