QS 101: Make it Social

February 9, 2012

You’ve all heard the buzzwords being thrown around these days, “social media”, “social networking” etc. With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social services it seems like you can’t go anywhere online these days without being bombarded with buttons yelling at us to “Share this!”, “Like This” or “Send this to a friend”. Why the proliferation of social sites and services? All of this shouldn’t be a surprise, after all we humans are social creatures. Rarely do we exist in complete isolation. Cliches like “No man(woman) is an island” are so popular because, well, they’re just true. So how does this relate to your Quantified Self practice?

You are a product of your social environment. We’ve known in the behavior sciences for a long time that the actions of one person can impact the actions of another. One of the most common concepts we’ve used to explain this is social support. To put it simply the social support represents the idea that we our behaviors are influenced and supported by our social structure (friends, family, colleagues, etc.). There are four fundamental types of social support that have been identified as being beneficial for starting and/or maintaining a behavior (follow the previous link for more detailed descriptions):

Emotional support – empathy, understanding, and caring  from others. 

Tangible support – material assistance (money, goods, tools, etc). 

Informational support – guidance, both subjective and objective knowledge. 

Companionship support – inclusion in a social group. 

One of the great things about Quantified Self is that we attempt to provide these four types of support at our meetups around the world and at our annual conferences. I’ve personally been able to find all four over the course of the last year and a half and consider myself immensely lucky to have found caring and smart people willing to support my self tracking journey. But, maybe you don’t have a meetup in your area or you’re not comfortable asking for support from a fellow group member, then what now? Well, one of the ways to enlist social support is to just ask someone who you trust and feel comfortable with to help you. This can be a major step for most people, but in most cases it is a step worth taking.

Briefly, the take away here is that when you are starting or looking to continue in your self tracking practice it is worthwhile to consider eliciting social support from others. Although we call ourselves the Quantified Self the notion of “self” does not mean our practices must be done in solitude. In fact, we celebrate and encourage informational support through our Guide and the Quantified Self Forums. We work hard to create collaborative learning and knowledge exchange and we’re always working on fostering the other aspects of social support, but I encourage you to look outside your local QS community to others in your social circles that may be able to provide you the support you need.

For a more specific example of the power of social support I highly encourage you to take the time to read the Transformative Power of Sharing Mood post by the wonderful Alexandra Carmichael.

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