Just over a quarter of a century ago some big changes happened in culture. The movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’ opened and word of mouth spread like wildfire, due to it’s risque and infamous ‘Orgasm Scene’ in which a young woman simulates having a climax in the middle of a packed deli in New York, prompting a middle aged woman to point at her and order from the waitress: “I’m having what she’s having”.
Sexual candour has changed in 25 years but so has much else. In 1989, when that movie was made, the Internet took it first steps out from the military and academic shadows into more public availability. Suddenly, the world joined the social era. The rest, as they say is history: the 1990s saw the arrival of 24/7 media, email, the World Wide Web itself, Google and this was followed in the noughties by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, all propelled by the advent of what is simply called ‘Mobile’.
Today’s When Harry Met Sally would obviously have its own Twitter campaign. Given that 6,000 tweets a second are currently being posted globally that is a lot of social sharing, and a lot of data. We are living in what the Oxford Internet Institute academic Professor Luciano Floridi calls the ‘4th revolution’ after Copernicus, Darwin and Freud, in which the world is dominated by ‘the infosphere’ or information and communications technologies (ICTs).
Britain is currently ranked 9th in the world by the World Economic Forum’s annual Networked Readiness Index’ which assesses how well 150 economies around the world leverage technology and networks to boost not just competitiveness, but wellbeing.
This is interesting because we cannot really understand the networked economy without looking at wellbeing, or a sense of well-ness and how the era I would describe as ‘fully connected’ impacts on this. As The Economist noted on 6th June 2015: “social integration is more important for well-being than income”.
Social integration in an era of social media has to be driven, I think, by a set of behaviours, a system if you like that I’m calling Social Health. In which we use technology to gather and spread information, but to support human activity on the ground, and to foster greater intellectual and emotional connection. Knowledge really is power. The ability to connect, to network, is powerful.
For instance, take a look at the UAViators, http://uaviators.org, the global volunteer network of professional civilian drone operators who band together over earthquake zones to pool data and hotspot knowledge; or the Minnesotian mixed-race Marnita Shroedl who styles herself as the ‘world’s first social capital incubator’ by connecting the powerless and the powerful in her community over dinner, literally, at her househttp://marnitastable.org
The fully connected age is a social age but it needs to be more healthy than unhealthy. That means knowing when to disconnect, when to be offline, and how to curate what you know and who you know to avoid drowning in overload.
Healthy practice takes time to develop and requires big cultural shift. Twenty five years ago many of us smoked, drank and had no gym membership or fitness regime. Now even in America, the cradle of the obesity crisis, over 50 million people are members of a health club or gym.
At the end of World War Two, on 22 July 1946, the World Health Organisation defined health for the newly free world for the first time as a state “of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity”.
It is time to get our heads around social health and who knows, we may even end up having what she’s having.
This article is published in collaboration with Julia Hobsbawm. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Julia Hobsbawm is Honorary Visiting Professor in Networking at Cass Business School, London, and Honorary Visiting Professor in Business Networking at UCS Suffolk. She is the founder of the knowledge networking business http://www.editorialintelligence.com.
Image: A woman jogs along the Charles River on an early spring evening in Boston. REUTERS/Brian Snyder.