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Where social media falls in the hierarchy of needs.


Social media satiates many basic human needs – the need for entertainment, the need for new information, and at the most fundamental level, the need for human connection. I don’t care what people say about social media making us more disconnected; that’s simply not true. We are just pursuing the same connections we always have through digital channels. More than that, it’s letting us connect to a wider world than ever before; connecting digitally only increases our capacity to invest emotionally, so long as we give ourselves permission to try.

Maslow famously described a basic, animalistic hierarchy, wherein purpose, self-esteem, safety, and love all play a part in fulfillment in our daily lives. I have to believe the wild growth and corresponding entrenchment of social media is a direct result of how strongly it resonates with Maslow’s categories. It can open us up to new purpose and passion by introducing us to new information, goals, and inspiration that we otherwise never would have come across. It can give us a sense of safety in a dangerous world; Facebook, for instance, allows us to near-instantaneously check in with all our loved ones after a tragedy. Finally, it gives us a global community, and helps foster a sense of belonging; boosting our self-esteem with every like or Instagram comment from friends both new and old. Does it feed into our narcissistic side? Well, yes, but that’s a post for another time.

Ultimately, digital connection plays such an important role in our lives because it directly resonates with each of our basic human needs, and does so whether we consciously recognize it or not. For Millennials, it’s already a way of life – they are digitally indigenous and have been exposed to this brave new world from the jump. Maslow probably didn’t foresee a world of upvotes and retweets, but I have to think that if he developed his theory today, there would be a good sized slice of that pyramid set aside for social media.

That’s why it’s so crucial for marketers and brands, and why we have so much success with emotional storytelling: it reaches us at a truly human level. It resonates. It stirs. Ultimately, it spurs us to take action by hitting us where we live. It enriches us.

And if we do right, it enriches our bottom line, too.