The stories we tell: why do we share?

Today I had an interesting presentation at work. We were talking about story creators. And why do we share. Personally, I have talked about why I blog (or share stories) and also why culturally some people in Germany do not share a lot.┬áLast week, I also tried identifying what we share. Why share and tell stories is however in my perspective a deep seated psychological need. My hunch was: people share online to become famous, only some don’t know it or accept it yet. I was being true and not aiming for a sweeping statement here. Of course I had disagreements from the audience. I decided to dig this out, more.

Why do we share online
Sharing online to be listened to, to be famous

Why people share stories online

NY Times has done a great study on the reasons of why people share, and also segmented usual “sharers” and grouped them into different categories or sharing personas. I will begin with the rationale that study brings out, claiming sharing is all about relationships, and we share:

  • To bring value and entertainment to others
  • To define ourselves to others
  • To grow and nourish relationships
  • For self-fulfillment
  • To get the word out about causes or brands

My perspective is a simplification of all these seemingly diverse needs. NY Times was probably aiming at marketers and cashing in on the buzzwords around “relationship marketing”. But to me it seemed like even if it is about relationships, it is far more internal than external. It is more around a sense of belonging, validation from a community and a group, the need to be heard and respected, the need to feel a sense of ownership and connect. It’s all things we want as individuals. We tell stories to kids, stories about love, and all else, because we enjoy the feeling that someone is listening. That makes us feel special. And in some way, it is wanting fame, even if in a limited community. And without judging anyone for it (including me), it is a sense of vanity. And we choose listeners who echo our sentiments. We share selectively because we even want a certain type of responses.

you are what you share
Online sharing: to define who we are, to others


Who shares: the sharing personas

The study further defines the following sharing personas with their emotional attributes amongst others:

  • Altruists- Helpful, thoughtful
  • Careerists- Valuable, Intelligent
  • Hipsters- Creative, Cutting edge, Popular
  • Boomerangs- Validation, Empowered
  • Connectors- Creative, Relaxed, Thoughtful
  • Selectors- Resourceful, Careful, Informative

This actually affirms my fame theory even more. I do not believe there is any altruism in sharing online. Even if people claim it, or do not understand their own subconscious needs. All these sharing personas share because it makes them famous, important and heard. Even if, in a group of two.

And we share a lot.