The conversations we have defines who we are

Every few weeks we receive a ‘Moving World’ email from our colleague Scott Suitor. It is packed with links that keep the MB staff up to speed with the latest developments in our fast moving world. This time around, there was two links which really caugh my attention, both concern storytelling and (as Willis Kingery previously wrote about) ‘the social revolution’.

The first link is to Paul Adams talk at the Facebook Marketing Convention. It doesn’t only teach us about how brands can converse with their audience, but more importantly, it also gives us a deep insight to social behavior.

Innovations, Adams begins, often starts with people applying existing media to the new medium. For instance, Bell pitched the telephone as a broadcasting device – a product you could put on a stand during a ceremony and people could dial in and gather around the phone to listen. He feels the same thing is happening at the web right now, and that it is his job to tell people about the opportunities of the internet, or more explicitly Facebook.

Most of our social interaction online is through commenting and ‘like’-ing, we seldom share. This is because sharing is hard, probably (this is my own reflection), because it feels too personal. Like a formal, recorded statement of our own taste and opinion. Adams asks us to instead think about how people ‘talk’, which is a form of indirect sharing.

We converse to make life easier, to build relationships, to help others and to craft our identity.

Conversation has helped our species progress, because through communication we can learn things from each other. These interpersonal relationships are best formed through repeated, light-touch interactions about the things around us.

‘The conversations we have defines who we are’. This is a bold statement, especially when Adams complements it with mundane product focused Facebook comments (which in turn reminds us about the purpose and audience of this talk).

80% of our conversations are with the same 4-5 people. The persons we feel closest too, who are most like ourselves. These are the ones who can effect us the most, not the ‘influencers’ who we don’t have any emotional bond to.

70% of all our conversations are about our personal experiences and other people – our identity is very much based on recounting personal memories.

This leads me into the second link from Scott’s email, an article about Jonathan Harris latest project Cowbird. An online community which aims to become a ‘a kind of Wikipedia of life experiences’, where accumulated knowledge and wisdom can exist for future generations. It is a place for self promotion and self reflection for a deeper, more long-lasting self expression. A form of public diary so to say.

I would love to hear the discussion that could emerge if placing Adams and Harris in one room. Because their focus on social behavior differentiates at so many levels. Adam seem to embrace the new short, shallow and compressed every-day way of communicating online, while Harris believes we have a hunger for substance and meaning which will express itself in ‘the same way that fast food is abandoned for slow food’.

I wish that Harris is right, but I remind myself of how few people actually share my interests and opinions and how most people out on the street read the Sun. Sometimes our surroundings can be-blind and make us naive. This tendency to ignorance seems logical if 80% of our conversation is to 4-5 people, as Adam stated. But then, lets not forget the impact of more passive information. Like the Moving World emails I receive from Scott every once in a while.