The extract below comes from Charles Leadbeater’s book, We Think. It’s one of the best explanations I’ve seen for behaviours that underpin the social web.
As societies get richer and more of the basic needs for food, clothing, housing, warmth and security are met, people will become increasingly interested in the psychological dimensions of well-being. It is vital to our psychological well-being that we are held in high esteem, valued and recognised for what we do. Our identities – what we are good at and what matters to us – depend on the recognition of other people. In the past, many people acquired a sense of identity from their position in a bounded local community. In the 20th century, occupation and position in an organisational hierarchy often provided the key. Now, people increasingly get a sense of identity from the relationships they form and the interests they share with others. The web matters not least because by allowing people to participate and share, it also give them a route to recognition, if only through the comments posted in response to a blog, a rating as a trader on eBay, the points acquired as a game player, or the incorporations of software they have written into the source code. People are drawn to share, not only to air their ideas, but in the hope their contributions will be recognised by a community of their peers.