I have often pondered what fuels the incredible growth in use of social media and social networking. Sure, some of it is driven by businesses understanding the power of the groundswell but long before business,  social networks were growing rapidly. The web has been around a long time and there was never this much interest in other areas of the Internet.

Australian Social Researcher Hugh Mackay has  published a book based on many years of his research findings which outlines the 10 most basic desires that make us ‘tick’. I was listening to him being interviewed on a podcast of ‘Conversations” on the ABC where he spoke about these 10 desires that make us tick as human beings and as Australians. And of course, all these desires are intertwined in many complex ways. It struck me that these desires are surely not just ‘Australian’ – in fact, they would seem pretty universal though this ignores the basic survival instincts many people around the world still have to live upon.

But what really blew me away was how many of these ‘Desires’ the world of social media and social networking appeal to. And because of that I can’t help wondering whether the explosion of social media / networking isn’t driven more by our basic desires – those things that make us tick – and this appeal to those desires almost means we can’t ever get enough of social media. Could it even signal that we have barely begun the social media journey?; after all the news in this regard is not that there 500 miilion users of Facebook but that there are 6 billion people who are not users.

In no particular order other than my poor memory the 10 basic desires that make us tick include the desire ‘to belong‘; the desire ‘to connect’ (on 3 levels – ourselves, others, the natural world), the desire ‘for love’, the desire ‘for control’, the desire ‘to be taken seriously’, the desire ‘to be useful’, the desire ‘for more’, the desire for ‘my place’, the desire ‘for something to believe in’. Yes yes, I know. There are only 9 here. I can’t recall the tenth.

When you step back from this its obvious how many of these basic desires social media and networking delivers, supports, nurtures. We have all experienced or witnessed that moment when someone ‘gets it’ – they suddenly understand the promise, the potential and they are hooked forever more.

It also explains the behaviours of some of the inhabitants of the social world. These desires not only explain why people really embrace social media but it also explains why some people can be absolute dipsticks in the way they respond and react. Because these desires can be negative influencers as well as positive ones. The constant desire for more as a simple example can drive us to exhibit greed, selfishness and other less pleasant behaviours. The desire for control can lead to some of those putdowns we see so often.

But overwhelmingly social media appeals to and nourishes these basic desires in ways that so few other parts of our world do. And the web enables those desires unconstrained by time or place.I never fully appreciated the ‘social’ implications of social media. I understood at some level the nature of it but not the true sociology. I think I am starting to get it.

Which desire of yours does social media appeal to the most?