Now is the Time of Social Objects.

Yes, #WorkingFromHome. Yes, Zoom meetings, all day every day. What else is new in “the future of work”?

I have been looking hard, reading far and wide in the last month, for new communications protocols and practices emerging from the #COVID19 pandemic.

As of yet, not too much other than fairly straightforward things:

  • plenty of communications,
  • consistency, transparency, from the top.
  • Tell people what you know and what you don’t.
  • Let experts take the spotlight.

However, today I found the first meaningful data point of how we are working differently: we are collectively loving gifs. Giphy suggests gif use is up 33%.

This is meaningful (the article has plenty of good data points) because of one overriding value of gifs – social objects.

A gif can capture, better than we can in words, the emotional resonance of a moment, of a feeling.

  • An Atlanta Housewife grabbing a weave with a bitchy putdown;
  • a Tiger King incredulity;
  • a Hollywood actor delivering a stirring speech;
  • a sly The Office look-to-camera

…all of these share with our kith and kin the intense truth of our situations better than some fairly generic personal words – “I’m doing ok”; “we’re getting through this”; “Working from home is tough with the kids underfoot but…”

It is much less likely that your Slack / Zoom team update sentence would be “It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I am on my second glass of Chardonnay…” but a gif equivalent, absolutely.

As Hugh McLeod shared in his landmark social objects blog post:

The most important word on the internet is “Share”. Sharing is the driver. Sharing is the DNA. We use Social Objects to share ourselves with other people. We’re primates. we like to groom each other. It’s in our nature.

He also gets the systematic programming sequence correct:

Social Networks are built around Social Objects, not vice versa. The latter act as “nodes”. The nodes appear before the network does.

You may have a technology tool to communicate remotely – Enterprise Social Network for example – but the mechanism to connect is through the content, the objects. I have liked people I have worked with across continents, people I have never met, because of their on point use of, and judicious sharing of, gifs / memes.

We are all content producers, now more than ever. In this role, we must share content to be productive; and share content to connect, to create meaning. This is the future of work…

This Much We Know.

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