Goldilocks went into the kitchen, where she found three bowls of porridge.
There was a great big sloppy-but-rustic looking bowl full of raisens, a middle sized ungarnished boring bowl and a small bowl from the Helen James – Considered Dunnes Stores Range (so cool but understated) filled with exotic superfood berries, chia seeds and cinnamon.
It was juuuust right and by now she was feeling rather hungry…
To be honest, she preferred raisens but the last bowl would look so good on Instagram. It would probably get at least 50 likes if she timed it with the evening commute…So she whipped out her iPhone and snapped.
Evemtually, the three bears returned home and called the Garda to have her arrested for trespassing (in one bed), theft (one porridge) and damaging private property (one chair). Goldilocks, who as you can probably already guess was pretty brazen, brought a counter charge of assault against baby bear…
– Somebody, Once upon a Time
This story (OK another version of it) is a well known cautionary fairy tale – although the lesson learned may have been somewhat lost over time. But perhaps a new lesson can be applied when we look at social media (‘bear’ with me)…
The human brain is a fantastic complex thing. However it is not one that has actually changed much in the last few hundred thousand years. As such, we are effectively still ‘hardwired’ like a caveman in many ways – specifically to stick with the pack and move up the ‘alpha’ ranks where possible.
You can see such hard wiring in action when you look at the sort of experiments where people eventually agree with the researcher that black is in fact, white or even agree to torture others just because someone tells them to. We are driven to ‘monkey see, monkey do’ – preferably within the most dominant pack that will have us – which we do by mimicking and agreeing with others behaviours, while at the same time being the best ‘social climbers’ of the urban jungle we can be. This is just as true when interacting with our families as it is at a school, work place, sports game, posh restuarant, and riot or a medieval witch hunt.
Incidentally, this is why school is so important when it comes to determining our future popularity. It’s where we shape a lot of our ‘social strategy’.
In day to day life, you also see it when you choose the busy restaurant over the quiet one, when you just a hotel ranked 4.5 star on tripadvisor, or when you join a queue without knowing what the hell you are queuing for!
And it’s not just a random gimmick that pops up sometimes, it occurs every day day. The strongest example is the yawn. Just thinking about the word yaaaaaaaaaawn, should be making you feel the urge to stretch that jaw now.
But here’s a picture, just in case that didn’t work…
Fun Fact – psychopaths are less likely to feel the inclination to yawn when others do it or suggest it (so don’t feel too bad about giving in). This should tell you a lot about what the significance of a yawn is!
Basically it’s a way of keeping the human pack’s mood in-sync. ‘I’m tired? Well maybe your tired too… Let’s stop and have a nap in this lovely tree here so I am not left sleeping on my own to sleep with saber tooth tigers knocking about!‘ The same incidentally, goes for women’s periods syncing up. I guess tribe that gets preggars together, sticks together! A neat trick of evolution that turned out to be very important if you wanted to avoid slowly wobbling around the jungle for 9 months (remember the aforementioned saber teeth?).
So – OK already – what does that have to do with ‘poor’ Goldilocks or social media?
Well one of those really strong monkey drives we also have, has to do with the number of connections we make in our ‘herd’.
Basically, we are driven to connect to as as many people as possible and maintain those connections, while still managing to feel this connection is of actually value to us. At the same time however, we don’t want too many people too close because our vulnerabilities are then exposed – something that could really hurt of alpha status.
So the monkey thoughts are
- Have as many reasonably meaningful connections as possible
- Get to as ‘alpha’ a position as possible
- Don’t let the masses see you’re ‘weak’ side.
In other words the ‘goldilocks’ drive – not too near to see our weakness, not too far away away that they are valueless as a connection but somewhere, well, middley.
Social media provides that irresistible place in which to do just that. And – even better – provides our monkey brains with lovely bright shiny buttons and counters to measure just how much we ‘matter’ in the world. Services like Whatsapp are another powerful example. After all, we can connect to ‘large groups’, control our communications (and therefore our representation of self), choose to temporarily ignore interactions when we are busy prioritising something or someone else and avoid ever showing our weak side by texting rather than showing involuntary facial expressions or ‘tells’ in our tone of voice.
So social media, despite the sonetimes lethargy we may have towards it (myself included) is not going to die off any time soon. It’s not a revolution. It’s a de-volution. One that us too compelling for our poor monkey brains to ignore.
Even if #GoldenLife is all fake, and it’s not our own porridge…
Ps I am convinced this is also why humans have got worse at person to peron SALES too.