Me to We, and Sociable Networking
The African philosophy “Ubuntu” presents us with an understanding of our place in relation to the world. Directly translated: “I am what I am because of who we all are”, it puts the spotlight on the group over the individual. As explained by Desmond Tutu: “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours… We belong in a bundle of life… a person is a person through other persons.”
If you consider the overabundance of social platforms usurping our time and energy each day, they’re reinforcing a different philosophy - one that’s governed around the individual. Our profiles, existing in the Orwellian worlds of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, are set up, first and foremost, to equip individuals with a tool to broadcast to a virtual auditorium of friends, fans, and followers on regular basis. And the brain-hacker programmers have worked out just the right clickbait triggers to keep exhibitionist individuals not only over-broadcasting for likes, friends and followers, but also keeping the voyeurs constantly checking their smartphones.
What if we challenged this construct? What if we flipped the social network as we know it on its head? What if we created profiles that were owned and occupied by groups rather than individuals? What if the sole purpose of sharing was to get a group together for a real life, offline experience? If my identity is inextricably bound in yours, if we only really live our lives when sharing in-person experiences with one another, then perhaps social networking as we know it is flawed and in need of an upgrade.
Ask any millennial about themselves. They’ll talk about their passions in tandem with their experiences around those passions, and they’ll talk about who they share those passions with… music festivals with their group of friends; marches with their activist group; meditation with their yoga buddies; art exhibitions with their art crew. It’s the “crew” that makes the experience meaningful to them.
We need more cues and rewards that create habitual behavior around community and offline group experiences. The brain hackers should know that impetus to share goes right up when the pressure to share comes down. If I’m in a group called “FUNdamental Rights” and that group belongs to each member as much as it does to me, participants instigating something fun in the group or sharing pictures from their experience in the group feel like that bright spotlight is on all of them rather than just on the individual… making it far more pleasant and far less stressful to share. There’s safety in numbers.
The world has had enough of the growing facade of digital media - the fake news, fake profiles and fake interactions. The ease and speed of signing a petition or doing a status update is great, but there’s this growing disconnect between what we say online and what we actually do offline, fostering a world of shallow promises and unfulfilled action. What happened to actually standing for what you believe in? Gloria Steinem said it best at the Women’s March. “Sometimes you have to put your bodies where your beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send isn’t enough…”
The Gods have had enough. And thank the Gods, we’re seeing the effect: enormous crowds gathering at town halls all over the US holding their politicians accountable; house parties with the sole purpose to Swing Left and take back the house in 2018; YouTube Stars like Casey Neistat breaking the YouTube wall and showing up to protest with thousands fans; over 5 million people across the world standing up against discrimination… Notice something in common? Foot soldiers, standing for their future, meeting face-to-face with their communities, putting their bodies where their beliefs are.
This is what the world is craving. And a platform anchored around the group, with a means to gather together and share together, is a step in that direction. So next time you think of something you can do for and with your community (and the world at large) don’t just post about it — shout it out to the groups you’re a part of, the groups that make up who you are, the groups that love to do the things that you do and are therefore ready and willing to actually stand by your side.