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    What’s Behind the Success of Web 2.0? A Psychological Interpretation

    17 תגובות   יום שלישי, 27/11/07, 16:20

    I have recently read Yarden Lewinsky's post regarding Web 2.0 and The Evolution of the Ego. This is a fascinating article written in Hebrew and I wanted to share its key ideas with you. Since Yarden is a Medical Doctor specializing in Psychiatry and also has been involved in a few internet projects, he has a deep understanding of the human psyche and in this post he uses his knowledge to interpret the reasons behind the high usage and popularity of Web 2.0 platforms as we know them today.

    Yarden refers to another post by Idan which explains the popularity of Web 2.0 sites like Facebook or Twitter:

    "Given the correct tools, people have a desire to talk to and with an audience or community. Chat, SMS, Email - all these are classic tools for one-on-one interaction (or one-on-few). Web 2.0 opens up new possibilities to talk one-to-many or many-to-many which answers a very basic human need people have in communicating with the outside world."

    Yet Yarden points out that this explanation still does not answer relevant questions such as: Why do people want to talk to and with a community? Is there one basic reason that can answer this question or are there a few? And if we can detect these reasons could we use them in order to build better products?

    All the developmental psychological theories deal in essence with a person's self identity and his relations with his environment. We understand that at a very early stage of human development the definition of self identity stops being dependent only on the person himself and starts being affected by his interaction with his surroundings. Every psychological theory defines this process differently, has different names for it, and gives different explanations regarding the mechanisms which affect this process. Yet if we understand the mechanisms which cause this and are able to detect which ones are dominant in every person, then we can better explain the behavior of this person in later stages of his life. In this manner we can explain why one person may be an introvert and another an exhibitionist.

    It is very easy to claim that Web 2.0 is a technological revolution (specifically because of things like RSS, AJAX, API, and XML), yet this is not the case. Web 2.0 is simply a social progression based on the understanding of human needs (see my post entitled Why We Should Care About Web 2.0 where I make the same point). The claim is that technology changes human behavior in a drastic way. Yet in order for technology to succeed and become popular, it must imitate human behavior in order to satisfy our most basic needs and urges.

    If we take the most famous sites in the Web 2.0 world we will see that these sites actually allow us to do what we were doing all along, even before the internet, but in a more effective manner. MySpace or FaceBook are based on the way in which we manage our social contacts, Skype is based on our need to talk with others, Google is based on the way that we rank things, Flickr is based on the manner in which we share experiences with others, Amazon is based on the way we talk about books, and Delicious is based on the manner in which we try to remember things. In essence, the innovativeness of these sites does not come from the fact that they created something new, but rather, from the way in which they allow us to do what we've always done - better, more times, in more places, and faster.

    Now we understand how these applications became popular. Yet we have yet to explain why we continue to use them. What brings people to use applications like Twitter every couple of minutes in order to let the world know what they drank, ate, or saw? Why are some of us inclined to become friends of other people who we don't even know on all the different social networks and get updates on all their doings? Why do some of us share our most secret thoughts and intimate details in public blogs? The more popular these applications and platforms become, the more the term privacy diminishes from our language. Today almost everything is public and if it's already public, then it might as well be distributed on a worldwide scale.

    In order to understand this phenomenon we go back to the dynamic theories of man and the society in which we live. According to Kohut's theory, in the first few months of a baby's life, the baby expects his environment to provide him with all the essential components that he needs for self development. The "other" turns into what Kohut refers to as "Self Object" which provides the baby with the three most basic components that each person requires: Self value, idealization, and comprehensibility. Kohut also claims that throughout our lives we need the same "Self Object's" feedback that we see in others around us. In other words, we define other people not as separate identities from us but rather as a continuous source of self satisfaction. When a man with a "defective" self image meets another person for the first time, he does not ask "who is this person? What's special about him? And what do we have in common?" but rather, he asks "what will I get from him? How will he appreciate me? And how will he affect my self image?" Therefore this person is not able to to build a mature and honest connection with the other.

    If we look at what's happening now in our Web 2.0 world we may easily argue that the most prominent social trend of the last twenty years is narcissism. Our society emphasizes the idea of self potential, uniqueness, and self branding. We raise our kids under the impression that all are created equal and that everyone has the same potential to be rich or famous, even though it has been proven in many studies that this claim is not accurate and that the chances of someone from a lower social standing to become famous are lower than those of someone from a higher social standing. Furthermore, we show our kids that success is actually based on "luck". You'll be famous if they'll hear about you on American Idol, or if you win Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, or if you'll win the lottery. Thousands of teenagers try to get on American Idol even though we all know that only a few will actually be able to survive as professional artists. Yet we continue to glamorize celebs and forget that if we tell our kids continuously that they could become one of those famous people then their main focus in life will be concentrated on the everlasting search of fame and fortune.

    Therefore what we find ourselves with is a full generation of "little narcissists" who have been educated to think that their personal success is connected mainly to what other people in their surrounding think about them. And then we bring in the internet. On the Web, any average narcissist can find what he's looking for: A few success stories of people who have become "famous" on the internet based on having thousands of friends on all the different networks, and the possibility for receiving constant, immediate, and limitless feedback is continued. From that moment on, every narcissist presents "his stuff" to the public without limitation of privacy out of hope for receiving acceptance and reassurance. Interpersonal relations continue to exist but turn into something less meaningful while the hope to "be discovered" becomes much more meaningful. In essence, the narcissist can now redefine himself, based on the response of others.

    The most successful sites are those that have recognized these basic human needs which are deeper than needs such as "I want to learn" or "I want to talk/read". It doesn't matter that most of these people will never become famous. What matters is that these sites help us answer our most basic question as humans: Who are we?

    People become members of MySpace or Twitter and write in their blogs because it gives them the feeling that they are famous. They check the statistics of the number of readers they have, how many comments they received, how many subscribe to their "broadcasts", because all these stats strengthen their sense of self. This is the way they define themselves. All those services that we mentioned above do not invoke the human need for attention, but rather they satisfy it - the same human need that exists amongst all of us and that is affected by our society. Web 2.0 simply allows us to become more human.


    What do you think? Do you agree with this claim? Would you add other factors into it?

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      תגובות (17)

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      ארעה שגיאה בזמן פרסום תגובתך. אנא בדקו את חיבור האינטרנט, או נסו לפרסם את התגובה בזמן מאוחר יותר. אם הבעיה נמשכת, נא צרו קשר עם מנהל באתר.


        28/1/08 16:22:
      איילת. את. מבריקה. אשמח לשוחח.
        1/12/07 00:47:
      You can choose who want to be friends with on Facebook and you may choose only people who have similar interests to yours. That's the beauty of Facebook - that you you can use it in so many different ways. Also believe me, I don't think your friend would want to get poked by stranger architects just because they share the same profession. 
        29/11/07 23:44:
      Those types of communities have existed for a long time in what was called BBS and the newer IRC communities.
      The common ground between selected communities and open communities may be the content. If the content is groundbraking or simply intriguing, then it doesn't matter where the stuff comes from - just like art communities who operate separately and in the same time simultaneously, so when new content is generated it is reviewd by all the communities.
        29/11/07 23:25:
      I see your point.
      Maybe ASW is too bit of a "snobish" place to take as an example to make my point clear.
      However, surely you will agree that you see the day when accepting any new friendship request from people who don't have a common interest like yours will become an overload .... on facebook or even here at the cafe. 
      So the answer to "just saying no"  is to prevent these situations in the first place
      (I see my friend rotting about the fact that she's being poked by people she wouldn't agree to be poked by in any other way... not sure this was the case if they were architectures like her, that's when she might actualy like to be interrupted.. and exhange some words with them)
      I think that the exlusive networks are to act like "featured" communities, nothing really to bit off from the big players market, but will co-excist  and allow each of us to feel relavitely productive hanging around ata place like that rather then wondering / browsing / gift exchanging at FB and MS
      That's why we're whitnessing more social communities hosting / generating operators like ning, kick apps and more. the next phase is to indeed screen and guarentee exclusive content in these places.
        29/11/07 18:45:
      Thanks for all your comments.
      Ariel, I have  a major problem with networks like ASW which are "exclusive" and only allow certain people to join. For example, on ASW, if you send friend requests to people and get rejected by 3 of them, they throw you off the network. I don't see how a social network can virally expand if one is afraid to connect with new people. Also, when I registered to the network, I received a nice complementary message from the founder. When I tried to add him as a friend, I received a message telling me that he was part of "a BIG world" and therefore I couldn't add him as a friend. Therefore even if someone is invited to ASW and feels special for 5 minutes, he immediately feels rejected when he understands that he is only part of the SMALL world and not the BIG world.
      A major part of a social network to me is getting to know new people. Any network that inhibits this sort of behavior is problematic in my mind.  
        29/11/07 14:39:

      נושא מעניין.  תודה. קראתי את הבלוג של הפסיכיטר וגם למדתי משהו. 

      אשר ?  אין אגו ברשת ?  איפה את חי ?  עדיין באוטופיה ?

      לא אטיל כאן את כובד המשקל של מחקרים בנושא הרשת.  אומר רק שהרשת לא משנה את טבע האדם, אלא רק מקילה על עלויות ההתקשרות. וזה לא דבר של מה בכך. אופי ההתקשרות משתנה קמעא, אולם הרשת היא שזורה במבנה החברתי כמו כל טכנולוגיה. היא לא משנה את תאוות הבצע, האיגואיזם ועדיין לא מבטלת את הדילמות העסקיות של שיתוף הפעולה. 

      כמות ההתקשרות עולה דרמטית, וזה כבר ענין איכותי.  הרשת יוצרת גם אוירה קהילתית גם במתחמים גיאוגרפיים בישראל (מחקר שלי).

      בכל הנוגע לבלוגים (בהם אינני מבין ) נראה לי, שאם קודם דיברנו ברשת, בד"כ, אחד עם השני יותר אחד על אחד, כעת אנו מראים את השירים שלנו אחד לשני ולא רק בהיחבא.

      ego existo, ego sum

        29/11/07 10:01:
        29/11/07 09:54:

      Hi Ayelet,


      I do think that the trend we are seeing today is indeed a result of satisfying some of our basic mental and social needs and ego for example: the number of friends you accumulate FB/MS, MetaCafe rates their videos entirely on users preferences (by clicks) and even have their own "producers channel" which invites frequent uploaders to be semi-famous and earn real money and a spot in their top producers table, and the list goes on.


      With that said, I do believe that we are about to meet a counter trend where users do not want to be exposed all over, and have no interest in becoming friends with people they don't know from real life or have no benefit from partnering with them: asmallword.com for instance is an example, but of course this is not the privilege of the rich and famous only: e.g. : Financial social networks concerning stock markets analysis accept only members who have strong background in trading, as they don't want leeches to crawl in their forums, this is most probably to reflect on other closed social networks of guilds or professionals, and other segments, like: "only true depech-mode fanatics social network" and so on...


      The thing is ego also results from you being "excluded from the rest" (snob). You don't want to hang out in Facebook with all the gang, you want to be a member in the VIP club, and to my opinion, we are going to see in the next couple of years more and more social site who offer premium content to "premium" users who will act as closed communities. This may not guaranty a user pool of over 20 millions but the site's owners will benefit from more loyal, targeted audience.


      That was long, sorry :)

        29/11/07 02:34:

      Focusing on a specific fenomena and then inducing conclusions about the whole of society seems to me a bit misleading


      Of course there are people that use these new means for ego. However it seems that the uses are far fetched and the means are rapidly evolving and changing


       One observation that seems to me very important is the fact that there is interaction with a group of people. Another observation is that people actually listen . Someone actually read these funny things you described.

      In real life people rarely listen or bother to interact.


      For example go to an esspresso bar people sit in small groups that do not interact and they probably are not really listening to one another they are mostly focused on looks gadgets smells cleavage. Go to a lecture room room  where the status of the lecturer prevents any discussion etc....


      The only thing that I think applies in general is that these means distort and amplify many qualities such as narcisicm, self confidence etc




        29/11/07 00:23:
      As most sociologists know, history never repeats itself. It gets added and our lifes become more complicated. A monk who lives in the forest doesn't manage without fuel, he just manages without cars.
      Our Ego is there for the ages - there's no escaping prison so easilly.
        29/11/07 00:12:

      קודם כל בעברית , וסליחה.


      לאשר עידן - איילת לחלוטין צודקת בעניין האגו. הוא זה שהביא אותך לכתוב תגובה בסגנון אקדמי יהיר ומנותק מהמציאות. זאת לא  תגובת WEB o.o  אלא המאה ה-17. אין כאן שום מקום להתנשאות .


      FACEBOOK לדעתי הוא הנרקיסיזם בהתגלמותו. שמגרדים את השיכבה העליונה אין בכלל תקשורת בין אנשים. זה אני עושה משהו והשאר מציצים לי. ואז מישהו אחר עושה והשאר מציצים לו. מכירים את השיר הנפלא של מאיר אריאל "אני בתל אביב היא בחיפה? " נכון, הוא עוסק באוננות. זה FACEBOOK , והריגוש הוא לעשות את זה מול "אולם מלא" רק שכל אחד מתעסק עם עצמו. זה קצת כמו רשת טלויזיות במעגל סגור שבו רואים מה כל השכנים עושים, והם יודעים את זה. (התת מודע הקולקטיבי...  אשר, באמת....)


      לכן, FACEBOOK יראה עוד שנתיים כמו שנעלי CROCKS נראים לחלק מאיתנו כבר עכשיו ...    

        28/11/07 23:25:
      Hi all:
      If you look at Twitter or Facebook, you'll find people posting about what they just ate, what event they just went to, and what post they just published. Why are these networks so successful? Because they allow us to interact with others, communicate with them, publicize ourselves, and let others perceive us the way we want or hope to be perceived. I just wrote a post about my blog today regarding the most popular applications on facebook. 43% of the top facebook applications deal with the issue of identity formation. Therefore how can one say that ego does not exist in this century or that this is only a passing phenomenon? Web 2.0 is only an extension of the human needs that we've always had - to interact with others, to communicate, and to define and raise our role in society.       
        28/11/07 19:37:
      To Dr. Idan:
      I think you missed ayelet's point - she didn't talked about certain consequences, but rather possible directions and implications. She didn't try to find the end of the road but only to point out possible routes.
      To Ayelet:
      When poeple created civilizations, the order of knowledge (or perhaps the chaos of knowledge) became more complicated, and therefore became less controllable and more random. This age marks another revolution about the dissolution of the bodies of knowledge and the assimilation of the knowledge with life itself. The thing that should be taught is not the pursue of more of the same. Instead, they should be made aware of tools which will enable them to seperate the information and issues from the person himself - regarding themselves and others. The end could result of someone becoming more blunt, but it can also result in someone becoming more finess.
      Till next time - be aware of data cages...
        28/11/07 16:29:

      Thanks for rasing the issue


      First regarding Psychological theories. I think that using the term Hypothesis is better since a theory is actually something the implies that the claim has actually been proven.


      My opinion is rather simple. Maybe some people write a BLOG or join a social network because of the hope to be discovered. However I think that the reason is that people do this is because thay need to communicate and express themselves freely and all other communication methods seem to fail.

      A short demonstation. Television / Radio are a one way communication system that in a way dictates our life.   You can easily see how people do every possible effort do make into a too way communication system


      Communication with Family, friends, colleauges -  this might be implicit but this type of communication is very restricted/ we are expected to say certain things and wear certain things smell in a certain way... (these things of course are a part of communication)


      Now compare this to a social network. There is almost complete freedom in content a lot of expressive power. You can actually choose your friends (the environment does not dictate) /you do not have to dress in a certain way have a certain look etc 

      symbols of power such as education fancy cars do not work in a social network/ 


        28/11/07 10:17:

      ego sells and thats life


      if you look at alexa you can see that the top sites on the net are W2 lets hope W2 wont make WWIII

        28/11/07 09:38:

      אכן עושה רושם שצורכי האגו הינם המניע העיקרי של צמיחת הקהילות הפופולריות. יחד עם זאת לדעתי תופעה זו הינה זמנית ואופנתית שכן תיגמול האגו הינו וירטואלי ובלתי מספק.

      היתרון שאני מוצא בשיח הקהילתי הוא ביכולת לפתח תובנות באמצעות המשוב הקהילתי, כמו מידע נוסף, ביקורת עינינית והסכמה לרעיונות לרוב בלתי בשלים ובשלבי ההתהוות.

      אחת הבעיות באתרים קהילתיים (כדוגמאת הקפה) היא לברור את התכנים האיכותיים, כל אחד לטעמו, מתוך השיטפון. כלי אחד ולא יעיל במיוחד הינו מנגנון החברים.

        27/11/07 16:36:

      Ego is Web 0.0 Concept

      It is a modernist anachronism

      It is a Fiction. We does not have ego, We are masks and mirors


      בעברית: אגו הוא מושג אנאכרוניסטי או ווב 0.0 או מודרניזם של המאה ה20


      Lacan's Collective Unconsciousness is Web 2.0 concept

      It is Post-modern concept that explain User Generatrd Content much better

      It also explain the "Social " in Social Networks"


      בעברית: המושג תת-מודע קולקטיבי של הנובע מהאיווי הוא מושג פוסט-מודרניסטי של ווב 2.0 שמסביר טוב יותר מושגי ווב 2.0 כמו אינטליגנציה קולקטיבית, רשת חברתית ותוכן משתמשים




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