Feb 13

Maslow and social networks

Many politicians, including President Obama, first began to make intensive use of the opportunities offered by social networks, recognizing their strategic importance to build effective relationships with citizens and potential voters.

Also companies are quickly recognizing that, without a profile on Facebook, Twitter or a vertical social network, they lose some opportunities to engage their customers. The surprise has been even greater when the temporal and religious authority, the Church, through the words of the Holy Father has acknowledged that it is impossible not to recognize that social networks are a "place" of dialogue, which gives the opportunity to capture believers’ feelings and emotions.

After having recognized the importance of social networks as a place to socialize, express opinions, collect and share ideas or advices, it may be useful to reflect on what needs a social network has to satisfy.

In order to develop this reasoning in a structured way, we can “disturb” Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, which is the basis of the theory of human motivation. Maslow reminds us that basic human needs can be split into the following categories: physiological, safety, social/belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization.

Applying Maslow’s chain of needs, we can therefore try to explain why we like Social Networks and how they satisfy our basic needs.

Social need

Social networks are appreciated because man is a social animal. We love to live and share with others our moments of happiness or sorrow. We need companions and friends. Social networks ease the relationship with other people, much more than other types of communication.

Need for esteem, acceptance and self-esteem

Active participates to social networks feel or suppose to be accepted and respected. They perceive it through the way other "profiles" post a thought, respond to our observations. They feel and perceive it through the "tone" of written words.

Being accepted is fundamental for men to feel themselves as a part of a tribe, and this also increases their self-esteem. The higher is the number of our friends or followers, the bigger is our happiness because "that number” of friends is a direct indicator of acceptance and appreciation.

Need for self-actualization

Many people exchange information in social networks not in order to gain knowledge, but because it makes feel them useful to others. People that help friends, followers and contacts increase their self-actualization.

Posting an advice on TripAdvisor meets this need because we don’t do it for ourselves, but for the sake of someone else.

Need for security

Our aspiration is that personal information is not used inappropriately, and that the data that we post are protected, as well as that our data are used only with our permission.


Therefore, social networks meet many complex needs, but also fulfill our aspiration and sense of community. We need to consider ourselves members of a community.

As members of a tribe, we aspire to exercise some influence and to have a voice, to be heard, to find comfort in the form of support and advice. Being part of a community satisfies the need for integration and thus for belonging.

People and so all of us want to live and experience emotional connections and to share collective emotions.