What hippy communes teach us about social media

“No Straight Lines” with Alan Moore was the first panel to talk about Social Media and technology as a human construct. As the offspring of two old hippies, this couldn’t ring truer. I’ll open with what Moore closed with:

And for those curious, yes, that’s Moore talking.

He said in a village in Africa he visited, they described two kinds of hungers. The first is the lesser, our physical hunger; the second is the greater hunger. That second is one inside us, trying to find the answer why? Life’s meaning, why we exist – all those dilemmas that we don’t often want to face. Manifested in that longing for a why, Alan said, we crave identity and social connection.

He went on to say, “We are at the toxic tail end of a the industrial revolution and a mass consumer society” and “social networking is a response to something going on for a long time.” I agree, because I was born in to a community of people who set off on a grand experiment to rediscover human connection.

Along with my 4 older brothers and sisters, I was born on a commune in Tennessee called The Farm. My parents moved there in 1972, a few years after the Farm was founded and lived there until 1985, a few years after I was born. The Farm still exists today, although much smaller than in its prime – where it was a fully functioning commune with over 2,000 people. Here is a family picture about 2 years before I was born, it was taken in 1981.

Imagine living in a shared space with your friends, raising your kids, sharing food, sorting it out, having fun, working really, really hard to build the houses and community around you. This may be counterculture, but it is “social media” in the 1960s and 70s. And, if you’re my parents, it continued half way into the eighties.

Recently, someone invited me to join a Facebook Group called, “The Farm Community.“ When this happened, I thought my worlds had collided. Suddenly I was sucked through a vortex of time and space and nothing made sense and everything made sense. I realized then, social media is a human construct that we made to create connections with other humans. We’re a social animal and that is what we long for. That’s the greater hunger.

Today in his session, Moore said, “Technology does not come out of nowhere; it is a human invention in the first place.  It succeeds or not to the extent that it meets fundamental human needs.” I agree fully because I was born in to it, and I think when we recognize “social media” as a human construct, we can approach it in a whole new way.

Moore closed with, “There are no straight lines to the obvious. It is about people, not about technology. You can design solutions to accommodate the humanness of us all, and we can still be highly competitive.” Our challenge as marketers, communicators and designers is to create that authentic connection and experience that people crave on the most basic level. It’s an incredibly simple idea, but very hard to do.

Moore’s book “No Straight Lines” hasn’t been published yet. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for listening.

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