Psychology of social media: impatience, lack of focus and paranoia abound

December 18, 2009 at 7:53 AM 3 comments

I’ve not been around the social media game terribly long, but I have been around long enough to notice that there are certain psychological traits that seem to be common.  I don’t mean to insult anyone; I simply mean to point out traits that seem to be fueled by social media.

Because social media (and the Internet in general) are instant, impatience seems to logically follow.  I have found myself guilty of this one.  If I publish a blog post, sometimes I find myself wondering why no one reads it right away.  When I Tweet a question, why don’t I get an instant response?  Because we can get answers from search engines so quickly, I think often we expect the same instant response from social media.

This only because a true problem when it comes to a crisis of sorts.  I remember a few months ago, Best Buy fell under fire because an angry customer sought help from @BestBuyCMO on Twitter.  The person behind the Twitter handle signed off after a brief interaction and did not come back until the next day.  In @BestBuyCMO’s absence, Twitter was up in arms about how Best Buy could ignore the situation.  In hindsight, though, wasn’t it unreasonable to expect an immediate response?  On a Sunday?

Lately I’ve been noticing that we tend to jump around from topic to topic without fully resolving anything.  We lack focus. I participate in weekly Twitter chats, and while these are definitely helpful, the same topic is never addressed twice.  It’s so great to have access to many voices giving advice and asking questions about the same topic or idea. It loses a great deal of its power, though, when there’s really just chatter with no clear answer or direction in the end.

Perhaps I’m missing those who are truly focused on one topic, but I feel as though most of us (myself included) try to find the newest idea to discuss instead of looking at an idea in depth. Have you noticed this?

With the Internet becoming so ubiquitous, there is a greater need for safety online.  It’s obviously not smart to disclose all of your personal information, but at the same time, sometimes I think we are too paranoid.  Customers are not out to destroy all big brands.  Companies should be cautious and we should all be careful about how we interact online, but let’s face it, the online world isn’t out to get us (at least in most cases).

I am by no means suggesting that we throw caution to the wind and simply do as we please, but I think sometimes we all make it seem as though a company’s brand may completely fall apart should they decide to take on social media.

In all fairness, I should disclose that I have never studied psychology beyond introductory classes, but it seems to me to make sense that the immediacy of social media has encouraged these traits in all of us.  What do you think?  What else do you notice?  Am I completely off base?


Entry filed under: Branding, Marketing, public relations, Social Media, Twitter. Tags: , , , , .

Expectations: are they really so completely overwhelming or all in your head? Social media conversations: what would you want to know?

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rich Pulvino  |  December 18, 2009 at 8:49 AM

    Great post, Rebecca. It’s not just the social networks that have made us impatience, but newer and faster mobile devices, along with technological advances as a whole. Most of the impatient moments change from situation to situation. The Best Buy issue that you wrote about was something that should garner a response…but an immediate response was not necessary. People have lives and other responsibilities. It is unreasonable to expect an answer immediately after every post you make.

    As for the paranoia, people need to loosen up a bit. Relaxing and having some fun with these tools can lead to great conversations and great connections. More so than being hard nosed and constantly driven by the bottom-line.

  • 2. Jake Rosen  |  December 18, 2009 at 2:55 PM

    I often notice many social psychology principles taking in practice. I see groupthink and social diffusion of responsibility on a very regular basis.

    Good post.

  • 3. Teresa Basich  |  December 18, 2009 at 3:03 PM

    Great post, Rebecca! I’ve been thinking a lot about the psychological and sociological impacts of online interaction and I think you’ve started with some great thoughts. Impatience is definitely an issue around here, and I’d add to it that expectations are higher now that we have access to so many brands and people who represent brands.

    I find that impatience also carries over to our personal relationships, where we’re impatient to wait for responses to emails, FB messages, etc.

    Competitiveness is another one that I see, or even just a need for attention. Some brands have jumped into online social because their competitors are here, without spending time to research whether it really makes sense for them to be here as well. The same goes for people, right? We’re here because we can share our voice and receive recognition for just speaking up.

    Tip of the iceberg, my dear! Nice start. 🙂


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