The Motivation FactorsWhat motivates adult participation in on line social networks?

When we look at the psychology of human behavior we can begin to understand certain baseline motivations which draw adults to on line social networks. Abraham Maslow published his theory of human motivation in 1943.

Its popularity continues unabated. Like his colleague Carl Rogers, Maslow believed that actualization was the driving force of human personality, a concept he captures in his 1954 book, Motivation and PersonalityMaslow's great insight was to place actualization into a hierarchy of motivation.

Self actualization, as he called it, is the highest drive, but before a person can turn to it, he or she must satisfy other, lower motivations like hunger, safety and belonging. The hierarchy has five levels.

1. Physiological (hunger, thirst, shelter, sex, etc.)

2. Safety (security, protection from physical and emotional harm)

3. Social (affection, belonging, acceptance, friendship)

4. Esteem (also called ego). The internal ones are self respect, autonomy, achievement and the external ones are status, recognition, and attention.

5. Self actualization (doing things)

Maslow points out that the hierarchy is dynamic; the dominant need is always shifting. The hierarchy does not exist by itself, but is affected by the situation and the general culture. Satisfaction is relative. Douglas McGregor makes it the building block for his Theory X and Theory Y. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi continues the tradition in his concept of “flow.” A 1990s example of self actualization may be surfing the Internet.

Empirical research has confirmed the first three levels, but has not done so for the fourth and fifth levels of esteem and self actualization. Some have noted that Maslow's hierarchy follows the life cycle. A newborn baby's needs are almost entirely physiological. As the baby grows, it needs safety, then love. Toddlers are eager for social interaction. Teenagers are anxious about social needs; young adults are concerned with esteem and only more mature people transcend the first four levels to spend much time self actualizing.

Based on the observations across numerous networking platforms and reflect on the past definitions of human motivation we can see that social networks on line provide a primary motivation for adults in the category of self actualization, or doing things. Maslow defines self actualization as growth-motivated rather than deficiency-motivated.

What things are adults doing within social networks than enhance individual growth? Based on observations and interview we will provide a general categorization of the factors that enhance individual growth for adults participating in on line social networks. Each of these factors will be defined in greater detail in future articles post.

The Learning Factor: With all the hype, craze and media coverage of social networking platforms, i.e. Facebook and Linkedin, many adults are drawn to the medium to learn what the hype is all about.

The Connection Factor: Once adults enter networks and learn the “tools of the trade” many are amazed to find the presence of other adults they know and many they don't already engaged with the medium.

The Affinity Factor: Adults begin to find association with groups, causes, forums, media and other affinities which relate to their interest both personally and professionally.

The Business Factor: The predominant business segment using social networks today is employment recruiters. However, as the medium and adult participation has grown there is an exponential growth of business opportunities that adults are learning to facilitate using social networks as the medium.

The Creative Factor: Adults, and their businesses, are applying creative ways to use the technology behind social computing to extend its value to both personal and professional needs.

The Expectation Factor: When you consider the creative possibilities of social networks adults expect to the formation of some economic and social value to be derived from their participation whether currently or in the future.

The expectation of individual growth and satisfaction is high.These factors combined with the media hype over social networking are the motivating issues which are driving millions of adults to the medium at annual growth rates of 70% and more. The opportunity to capitalize economically is emerging quickly. Word of mouth will fuel growth rates faster than any other technological medium in our past. The growth and related factors will usher in The Relationship Economy.

Are your prepared to seize these opportunities? What say you?