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Sunday, February 19, 2017

What Drives Our Social Behavior?

Why do we do anything? Why do we want anything? What leads to our actions or inactions? What makes us social? Why do we compromise? Some say that human life is driven by fear. It is fascinating how society functions and how many variations there are of society.  However, the core of human nature is the same all over the world. In my observations, our social lives are highly influenced by three distinct fears -LLP: 

1. Fear of Loneliness

2. Fear of Effort (Laziness) 

3. Fear of the Unknown (Predictability)  

Evolutionary biology tells us that a desire to procreate and to self-preserve dictate a lot of our behavior. I think the modern world is much more complex. Reliance on another human is being replaced by commercial goods and services. Time is our most limited resource and it is primarily consumed to earn money and/or to satisfy our senses. Is that all there is? Let's see how LLP plays a role in our daily social lives: 

1. Loneliness: It is really hard for us to sit alone in a room and do nothing. Try it and see if you last more than five minutes. Loneliness can be very painful. It makes you think about the meaninglessness of life. Comfortableness with nothingness is probably the hardest thing to achieve for a human. We look at our phones constantly or watch TV or drink wine or eat food or read, etc., but it is really hard to do nothing. Why do we seek attention on social media? Why are we exchanging messages or pictures all the time? It is to escape loneliness. People have friendships and relationships, which lack mutual respect because people would rather be with somebody than nobody. Human relationships are complex and difficult so many people choose a relationship with a pet rather than with a person. A much easier way to escape loneliness! There are 75M+ pet dogs and 80M+ pet cats in the US. We spend ~8 hours per day looking at screens (TV, phone, laptop, etc.). Why can't we be alone?

2. Laziness: We tend to avoid physical and mental effort. It is much easier to read a tweet than a policy paper. It is much easier to buy a lottery ticket than to find ways of making money, which require a lot of hard work and risk. Some people tend to stay in romantic relationships when all the love and romance is gone because it is a lot of work to date and find someone else. Why do we like TV? Because it is a medium that requires no mental or physical energy and we get entertainment. Reading a book requires much more mental energy. We tend to follow what society expects of us without questioning and making up our mind about issues because thinking is a lot of work. Geroge Bernard Shaw famously said, "Few people think more than two or three times a year. I've made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week." 

3. Predictability: We like our whole life to be planned and everything to go as we plan. We want to know what the weather will be tomorrow, and if it does not turn out to be as sunny as forecasted, we get upset. People stay in jobs that they find miserable because it is predictable. Going to a new company or doing something else would require dealing with the unknown. Psychic services is a multi-billion dollar industry. We like to plan the future of our children. Stock markets run on predictability. We choose our life partners based on their predictable behavior. Would you marry someone, who does not behave predictably?  Ironically, we are a product of the random selection of genes. 

Loneliness, Laziness, and Predictability are interconnected with Loneliness being the biggest fear. Sometimes, we put effort (not being lazy) into a relationship (to escape loneliness) to have a relationship that lasts forever (predictability).