You must read this article from yesterday’s NYTimes Magazine, entitled “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy.”It won’t help you raise a dollar or a Euro today; nor will it solve your biggest communications challenge this week.But if you’re going to be in the biz of mobilizing people to open their minds, hearts or pocketbooks a few years from now, you will need to understand the psychology behind “social media” and what these tools mean to their hundreds of millions of users.This superb article will get you started. Learn how the incessant “intimate” contact afforded by social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are giving new meanings in the virtual world to sociological concepts like …

  • Ambient awareness — being near someone physically and picking up on their mood by observing “out of the corner of your eye” their random sighs, gestures, body language, stray comments.
  • The Dunbar Number — which says that human groupings tail off at about 150 individual relationships.
  • Weak ties — remote acquaintances who might actually increase your problem-solving ability.
  • Parasocial relationships — a new form of voyeurism.

It all adds up to an instant interpersonal awareness that, depending on your perspective, is either totally frightening and destructive of privacy or the 21st Century pro-social answer to “bowling alone” (at least for post-Boomers).Here’s how the article quotes Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, to sum up the phenomenon:“It’s just like living in a village, where it’s actually hard to lie because everybody knows the truth already … The current generation is never unconnected. They’re never losing touch with their friends. So we’re going back to a more normal place, historically. If you look at human history, the idea that you would drift through life, going from new relation to new relation, that’s very new. It’s just the 20th century.”As these social media platforms and tools take hold, social mobilization is being transformed and, potentially, accelerated to warp speed. Tomorrow, Roger gives a “here and now” example.Tom

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