Wired-In Desire: The Psychodynamics of Social Networking


As part Social Media Week London, September 26th saw the official launch of Dr. Aaron Balick's book, The Psychodynamics of Social Networking: connected-up instantaneous culture and the self. A full version of his launch speech is available here. What follows is an abridged version:

Facebook launched its initial public offering (IPO) with a great deal of fanfare (as has its continued volatility and recent ascension).  The launch of this book coincides with announcements about the IPO of Twitter, another highly anticipated event.  After more than a decade, social networking is still big news.

This week Ed Couchman, UK head of sales, acknowledged that Facebook may not be “cool” anymore, but he’s is okay with that. The first electric light bulb was cool too, but now we have electricity in every household – not so exciting, but certainly ubiquitous. Facebook aims to be our rather mundane social electric current.
But how mundane is online social networking? Neither Mary Beard nor Caroline Criado-Perez would describe it that way, nor those following developments across Ask.FM.
But, it’s the horror stories that we are used to hearing in the press, the fear of technology driven ADD, Facebook narcissism, and the diminishing of intimacy and privacy, etc. While there is some substance to these concerns, social networking no doubt also brings people together, it enables a deeper relationship with those farther afield, and there is some evidence to say that they build trust and spread social capital and social responsibility.
Whatever it does, it does it in a way that is rapidly expanding. In fact, more people have access to mobile phones than have access to toilets, and hence a clean and safe water supply.
If something threatens to re-shape Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is certainly our wired-in motivation to relate to others, and how this is facilitated – and inhibited – by technology and online social networking.
My book, The Psychodynamics of Social Networking aims to understand social media by using psychodynamics – the study of our unconscious life, particularly, our wired-in desire to relate to others. With this underlying motivation it's no surprise that online social networking has been scaling up to proportions never previously seen: we are subject to a global embrace of fibre optic relating.
This is what my book is about, coming closer to the unconscious complexity that underlies the misleading simplicities of Facebook or Twitter.  
I start where I conclude, that technology isn’t something that happens to us from the outside; we, as humans, are complicit in the way technology develops through what has been called social shaping. If being human deeply informs the nature of technology (after all, it’s we humans who develop it) than what better way to understand it than through depth psychology: that is my aim.

The Psychodynamics of Social Networking is available in softcover and on kindle now.

Photo (cc) Andrew Scott.