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Why do people like to share?

June 28, 2010

This blog is called “People like to share” because I think people like to share. That’s somewhat self-evident.

So in this post, I would like to argue why and how people like to share. In order to share, people need motive and opportunity. This motive and opportunity needs to then create a desire to share. So lets start with opportunity.


We can cut to the chase pretty quick here. We’re more wired now then we were 6 months ago. In 6 months, we’ll be even more wired. As this growth continues, so will our access to the opportunity to share. Think about it: if I take a picture (or video) with my smart phone, I can share it on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flick, YouTube, and e-mail. And that’s just an image. I can now share my location, my bookmarks, my opinions, my reviews, and my fandom.

This opportunity will only increase as more people within our individual social circles embrace it. For example, Facebook took off because people asked “Are you on Facebook” so much that people got on Facebook, promoting them to ask “Are you on Facebook?” to their crowd, and so on.

Other sharing tools have the same chance to expand. From “You can see my photos on Flickr” to check out my bookmarks on Delicious, as people move to these tools, we’ll move to a more critical mass. And in this instance, mass means world.


Just because people can do something, it doesn’t mean they will. People need to be motivated to share. And right now, we’re not at a critical acceptance (unless you happen to be a millennial, then you are motivated to share).

So the motive must be there, but I think it’s coming. I think people want to share. In his book, Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky talks about the accident of the last 50 years. The accident is that we didn’t live in a participatory culture, not that we’re currently living in one now. He asserts that people used to share a lot more before we gave all of our free time up to TV.

Indeed, even in an age where we give our time to TV, you’ll still find yourself sitting in a conversation with people sharing their opinions about shows. “did you see the show last night?” “Did you see that play?”

We still share. The difference is, we’ll be able to share with more people.

Finding your people.

Before the internet and social media, the thing that stopped the sharers from above was physical. As a fan of Arsenal FC, I can now find and talk to people about the games they play — online. This isn’t something that I can do in my home city. But it’s something that is easy online.

Finding your people is simple. Sharing with them is just as easy.

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