Standage’s thesis, as we see fairly explicitly in the Introduction and more subtly throughout everything that we’ve read thus far, relates to the concept that “social media” is not new. Social media was not created with MySpace, and it’s not likely to die should the internet spontaneously combust. “Social media” shifts with the technology, but the general idea of it remains: the passage of information between parties, creating a conversation that isn’t limited by the constraints of time, location, or even individuals involved. Certainly, Facebook and Twitter fit this definition, but it’s limiting to consider websites to be the only form of social media to have ever existed. Social media, by Standage’s definition, has existed for a few millennia; this suggests that social media is far more than “just a fad” (as I’ve heard a few people say it is in the past).
In Chapter 1, Standage shows us that there is a positive correlation between neocortex volume in the brain and that primate’s social group size (in other words, increase in the neocortex volume = increase in the social group size). His suggestion is that human brains were designed for social interaction; this falls in line with basic evolutionary and survivalist theories and concepts. Having a group of individuals one can trust provides a greater threat to and protection against rivals/enemies/potential predators. The size limit that Standage notes (through Dunbar) also makes sense from this perspective; if the group is too large, resources will deplete too rapidly, ultimately hindering the group.
Continuing from the evolutionary perspective, humans rely on stories. When I took ENG 247 (Imaginative Writing) last year one of the requirements was to read a book about creative writing, I ended up reading Wired for Story by Lisa Cron; one of the points emphasized throughout the first few chapters of the books was the evolutionary need for storytelling. The human brain is wired for stories (haha! Puns on book titles are fun!) because hearing about a near-death experience was a lot safer than actually having a near-death experience; humans were able to learn important lessons without having to put ourselves in direct danger. Humans were capable of experiencing events without ever having to experience. However, over time, the necessity for life-saving stories fell out, but the human mind still desired to hear stories… it became a social avenue; this is where Standage discusses the grooming coalitions becoming a social group that exchanged gossip.
(Post for 9-22-16)