Maslow’s theory of needs and the digital world

When I think about the subject of digital communities, I’m trying to understand a couple of different things:

Why is it so important?

Why do I feel like through digital means, we aren’t becoming closed in on ourselves, but rather, the opposite, that we’re opening up, and a huge opportunity has been given to us for more development and self-actualization than ever before?

And then, studying Maslow’s theory, with its hierarchy of needs – boom:  how could I not have seen it before?  Because there it was in front of me.

If we compare our digital lives to Maslow’s theory of needs, it’s possible to recognize that there are basic conditions which are needed in order to create digital communities, digital conversation, and meaning which transcend the screen.

What do we need to attain self-actualization in a digital environment?

Self-actualization, which we talk a lot about in the digital environment – why do we even write and create content if not for the feeling of self-actualization and creativity?

But in order to get there, we need to understand the basis for the whole thing, so let’s start, like everything else we do, at the very beginning:

First LevelBasic physiological needs – You could make the mistake of skipping over this step in the digital setting, because it’s not really a physiological need, this digital world of ours. Or is it?

Try to unplug from Facebook, from writing a blog, from your phone, for an entire month.

A month.  Not an hour.  One month.

I don’t doubt that many of you will raise an eyebrow, sensing that it wouldn’t be comfortable, that you’d develop withdrawal symptoms like you might for a minor (or major) addiction, and there are some who wouldn’t manage to cope with being deprived of the digital environment.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the digital world has become a physiological part of

our lives.

Therefore, the basic level in a digital setting, from the perspective of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the platform that we use.

Second LevelSecurity of physical existence – From the digital user’s perspective, the platform needs a comfortable, simple user interface which is pleasant, clear, accessible, secure and trustworthy.

Third LevelBelonging, identity and love – Here is where we find the central theme of digital content and also the sense of community. I’m certain that if we were to check the applications and platforms that have been released since social networks first exploded onto the scene, we’d find that the motifs of belonging, identity and love would appear in them all very clearly.  Identity generally exists within the user’s profile, belonging through the content the user writes, and love through the reactions of other users of the platform.

Fourth Level Esteem and respect – The digital user receives and bestows appreciation and respect in keeping with the use of the platform. The basic tools to make this level accessible to the digital user are user ratings, responses, subscribers, followers, engagement,

Fifth Level – Self-actualization – Although Maslow claimed that it was extremely difficult to reach self-actualization, which includes creativity, acceptance of facts, problem-solving, and morality, I actually believe that the digital user can completely succeed in attaining self-actualization through the platform, great creativity and problem-solving.  The topic of morality is worth investigating further.  But even so, the potential of the digital environment is experienced in the midst of self-actualization, and we can see this in the many examples from all over the world of how anonymous people have managed to transcend their personal and physical borders to attain self-realization in ways we could never have imagined thanks to appropriate use of the digital platform and the proximity to other digital users.

When I started to write this post, I knew that there was something to this, and now, after I’ve finished it, I’m certain that what I set out to write is just the tip of the iceberg.

In the next few posts, I’ll share examples of different stages and platforms, and how they allow digital users to actualize their existing potential through connecting themselves to the digital platforms, and what we can learn from this about other needs.

Thanks for reading, and I invite you to be part of the journey that I call Digitalosophy




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