Digital relationships: A long-needed breaking down of capitalist consequences

By | December 22, 2014

A few days ago, +Guy Kawasaki made an insightful post highlighting how being selfish brings more status, job promotions, and 'good' things in some countries – namely the more capitalistic ones. At the same time, it highlights how other countries – namely the more socialist ones – tend to link kindness with those same 'good' rewards of status, job promotions, etc. And this systematic reward scheme creates a system that we live in, which over time has been pushed to extremes – and as a result, many have come to passionately love or hate it. Link to Guy's post:

But something interesting is happening in the digital world of interaction, where these international barriers no longer exist, and where people are free to make behavioral choices that determine their digital reputation status independent of whether or not it helps them get on with their career: even in 'selfish' countries, people begin to break away from the selfish stereotype and base decisions on kindness instead.

Here's one recent perfect example of this in practice: +Carrie Canup, who lives in what is rated as an extremely selfish country but happens to also be one of those 'kind souls' whose kindness touches people worldwide through her presence on Google+, makes a post requesting for financial help – and is overwhelmed by how her request has funded her medical needs for next year within the first 24 hours. I doubt she'd have gotten the same response if she wasn't the 'kind soul' that she is: kindness pays off and leads to reciprocacy in status, just as it does in the 'kind' countries in Guy's article. Link to Carrie's post:

The result, which we see repeated over and over again across social media: successful digital relationships are not triggered by capitalist, economic incentives. They are instead triggered by meaningful, reciprocal relationships.

So what are the incentives that make create status, and thus success, online? Nothing that we don't intuitively already know: being kind, being sympathetic, having a human personality, having strengths and weaknesses without hiding them, being a positive motivator, and… oh, I'll bet there are people in some of those 'kind' countries who have put effort into figuring out how to climb the ladder of career success, who may be much better positioned than anyone in the 'selfish' world to teach the art of positive influence!

And what's more: I'd expect that this shift to a world, or at least a media channel, where social aptitude and kindness are crucial in reputation building, should bring a lot more happiness into the 'selfish' world as people, and businesses, are forced to become more aware of what humanity actually means instead of cocooning away in ramping up economic success.

As we mix the two opposing directions of kindness and selfishness, I'd hope to see a new flourish of businesses that are, also, kind – not just the few token examples that you read about now and then, but every single corporation, from small to large, resulting in a more sustainable socioeconomic system, more friendly and more human relationships, and ultimately a happier world population.

Kindness Boosts Status in Some Cultures – Scientific American

18 thoughts on “Digital relationships: A long-needed breaking down of capitalist consequences

  1. paul beard

    Couple of things come to mind. There is some self-selection at work here, allowing people to connect regardless of nationality, place of residence, time zone, even language if they have one in common. If the past is another country, maybe the connected/online world is too.

    This is one of the major differences between this social network and the better known Facebook. This one allows one way relationships, where you "follow" members' posts as part of your stream. Maybe the other does, too, it's been awhile since I spent time there.

    And the connections here are often about ideas and events rather than extensions of offline relationships. I know very few of the people I am connected to here in real life. But I find this to be a richer environment, more stimulating and educational.

    Maybe I missed a mention of it but has anyone read The Spirit Level? It discusses and illustrates the value of greater equality (not perfect one-size-fits-all misery) and the resulting increase in trust in some societies as well as the reverse, the corrosive effect of distrust. If we feel that our neighbors are good people like ourselves, if we trust them, we're happier. If we are suspicious or assume that everyone is trying to cheat, we're subconsciously stressed and anxious.

    I think +Carrie Canup's willingness to ask and the response might be an example of that at work. We chose to be part of this community, we created an atmosphere of empathetic trust and safety, and when asked for help, the community based on that responded.

  2. Carrie Canup

    Yeah I pretty much going to do it by 4 categories. IRL, established online relationship (regular interaction, had circled), infrequent interaction/friend of a friend (not circled/not circled previously), stranger. And then a tally. I wasn't going to name names.

  3. Dirk Reul

    I'd be interested to see that. However if you do, I'd do it in a very private share share because people are sure to take it the wrong way and feel slighted

  4. Carrie Canup

    Later today (I've got some appointments) I can break down donors by closeness for the curiosity factor. There are some friends, there are some acquaintances, people I would have digitally waved at, then strangers.

    My inherent nature (kindness?) may be responsible for reach in part, but also for the reach of those that shared. I also don't find those two attributes to be mutually exclusive. If there is one thing I've learned is that there is nothing worse than being kind and selfless. You need to have some sense of personal preservation, but not necessarily hold it so high add to ignore the suffering of another. I think that's how selfishness gets a bad wrap. You must feed yourself to feed another, but that doesn't mean you can't share. I think cooperation is important, not all of nothing, not yours/mine.

  5. Juergen Aschenbrenner

    +Sophie Wrobel​ I had a quick look on wolfram alpha but it seems they don't have any easy to query data sets to compare a kind of population density income tax ratio between countries?! Would be interesting though, as it would be a nice indicator of the cohesion in a society

  6. Sophie Wrobel

    +Juergen Aschenbrenner Couldn't find a comparison offhand, but maybe a few alternatives (some appear at first glance to be correlated, others don't… it's hard to measure real effects!):

    – Personal Income Tax:
    – GDP:
    – Palma Ratio:
    – GINI Coefficient:
    – Global Competitiveness Index:

  7. Charles L. Perkins

    Generousity within well defined cultural boundaries seems key.

    Kindness without structure, suggested behavior, can cause scaling problems (eg, when SL went from 100,000 to 8,000,000 people).

  8. Dirk Reul

    +Sophie Wrobel absolutely agree on that note. Most of us know Carrie, some better some only causally. But we have all formed a connection with her. Something that can be directly related to her being such a nice person overall and the way she interacts with all of us.

  9. Sophie Wrobel

    +Dirk Reul Agree, there certainly is a critical mass involved – that's a factor that shouldn't be forgotten! I think there are two points of emphasis in getting to that critical mass, though:
    1) You can only build and maintain a critical mass with such a high reciprocacy rate by being 'nice.'
    2) Most of the donors are not 'complete strangers' – it isn't a mere case of 'the more ripples, the more reach and the more response.' Rather, most of the donors are people with a direct relationship in the same digital 'community': a network of people who know and interact with each other digitally on a somewhat regular, if not frequent, basis.

  10. Dirk Reul

    Well said, +Sophie Wrobel and I fully agree on the personal level here, kindness often pays off but only once you've reached a critical mass of reach, which my friend +Carrie Canup has. I think that should be taken into consideration that while worthwhile on a personal level, kindness may not always garner the support one needs if not being spread out over a huge number of people looking at the ripples of Carrie's post.

  11. Charles L. Perkins

    Intriguing! (original article)

    The early Second Life community was part of a better world culture, embracing a lot of the best assets across numerous real world cultures while socially carving out the worst with gentle education, sensitive suggestion, and manifest best exemplars.

  12. Juergen Aschenbrenner

    I'd like to post here in order to follow up on other opinions… Here is one of my own: what is the tax rate of the yellow green countries versus those of the red orange ones. Does this correlation matter?


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