Feeling Emojinal? The New Social Network | Meabh Quoirin | TEDxBristol
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Feeling Emojinal? The New Social Network | Meabh Quoirin | TEDxBristol

Translator: Andrea Mussap
Reviewer: Maricene Crus Can we get a little emotional? Can we think about
who we are, what we feel, and why we should share
that with the rest of the world? Because if we can,
and I believe we can, it will make us better people
and it will make the world, or at least the online world,
a better place. Think of it this way,
“I share, therefore, I am.” Now, that might seem
a little melodramatic, but the fact is that sharing
these days is inextricably linked to our identities,
and chances are that you share. I am going to take a wild hunch and suggest that everybody
in the room has a social media profile. Maybe not so wild because
like 83% of the world does, at this stage. But I am betting that at least
half of the room shares a lot on social and the other half of the room
consumes a lot, but maybe doesn’t volunteer
so much about themselves. That’s OK. I am going to pay homage to one
of the great TED speakers of before, a lady called Amy Cuddy. And Amy taught us that by being
big or small in our physical gestures, we can be big or small in our minds
and in our personalities. So we can be big or small on social, too. And in the beginning,
on social, I was very small. Very, very small, I was barely visible, which is a little ironic, given
the talk I am here to give today, and what I do for a living. So in my day job,
I run the Future Foundation. We identify, and measure, and analyze
and study the trends of tomorrow. I know what’s coming next
and I know how big it will be. But when what was coming next
was the social revolution, I stood back. Now, it might not be visible
to the naked eye, but I am not a Gen Yer, who overnight started talking to my friends
more on Facebook than I did for real. Older generations and my generation
tend not to do that. Maybe they never will. And interestingly, younger generations
do share a lot on social, but for instance, Gen Z
are bit more circumspect about what they share. Perhaps they are worried
that their 12-year-old identities will follow them forever on the internet
and they don’t feel like that so much. So, back to the beginning, I wasn’t impressed and I essentially
thought of social media as reality TV: bad, boring, embarrassing,
I wasn’t having any of it, I was far too concerned
that everybody would seem way more fun than me,
so I told myself I was far too busy
for all that “twittering” online. And then I remembered,
“Hang on a minute Meabh, you love talking to strangers.” And I really do. I am Irish and what that means
is I am genetically programmed to talk to strangers all the time. (Laughter) It’s really fun! And it clicked in my mind that actually, social was talking to strangers
all over the world. So I stumbled in, and I thought,
“What the hell, I’ll give this a go.” And it doesn’t actually matter
how you start on social, or why you started. What matters now is that we realize that it is an extension
of who we are, of ourselves. And that is really important. Because maybe where we start
to have a little bit of a problem is where there is too much noise. We know there is a lot
of white noise on social, a lot of talking about nothing. A lot of posting
about all the positive stuff; if it wasn’t great
it didn’t happen today. So lots of people only ever
post about the really happy stuff and then they start, sometimes,
to lose the sense of who they really are, because it can spill over
into the positively self-delusional. Now that is not everybody, thankfully.
And, what’s the big deal in a way? Well, I think that the business of social is about real human exchange. And I think it needs
to be about the quality of why we connect, not the quantity. It needs to be about
why we are connecting, not how many people
we are connecting to. What we are talking about,
not how much we are talking. And I want the Web to feel like a place where we can really express ourselves.
I want the Web to feel warm. And I bet I am not the only person
in the room who wants this. Hands up if you’ve ever had
a conversation with emoji. Don’t be shy, of course
you have, it’s great fun. Emoji is brilliant. Let me show you this. This is emojis, emoticons
in real time on twitter. You probably can’t see the numbers;
it’s well into the billions. Emoji is simply unicode
for our emotional real time selves. It’s like an emotional diary. And it’s fantastic, because it allows us to express
more feelings, deeper feelings, and it turns out that intensity
really matters. So in our work at Future Foundation, we’ve shared our studies
on emotional evolution and the warming web
with an agency called Unruly. Unruly are a viral video agency, and they’ve studied this too,
and actually the more emotionally intense a piece of content is, the more
we are likely to engage with it, and the more we are likely
to share it with other people. So if you’re wondering what your friends
want to see from you on Facebook, it is live emotional content. And the stronger the sentiment,
the more human the piece, the more likely we are to connect. So that’s pretty powerful. And the great thing about emojis
is we can feel a broader range of things. We can have subtler feelings. We no longer need to “like”
someone’s cat dying. We no longer need to “like”
the Syrian refugee crisis. We can love stuff, we can buy stuff, we can be bored of stuff,
we can tell a whole story of stuff like Andy Murray did for his wedding. So remember our starting point here:
“I share, therefore, I am.” So, I am going to share a story. And in fact I am going to share a story that is basically
about the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened
to me in my whole life. And its called: my tight trousers story. So, one day in my very first job
teaching in France, I was having a particularly
rowdy afternoon, but that wasn’t necessarily
terribly unusual. I was about 15 minutes
older than all of my students and most of my classes didn’t seem
to pay that much attention to me. So on that afternoon I was thinking,
you know, “Whatever!” But slowly as I approached
the end of the class, I just had this sense
that something was wrong. And in fact, a sense of dread
started to build inside of me which definitely got worse
as the bell rang and this girl, who I really,
really didn’t like, approached my desk. I can still see her sassy face today. (Laughter) And she said to me, (French) “Ma’am, your pants cracked.” (Laughter) So, I did this. My first conscious thought was, “Meabh, what knickers
are you wearing today?” Because I’d been flashing my pants
at the class for the last half an hour. And then my next thought was,
“Pull yourself together.” But I couldn’t do that because
I could feel that the seat of my pants had split from top to bottom,
and there was absolutely no recovery from this particularly
embarrassing scenario. So I just pulled my coat around my waist and babbled my way
through the other classes, in the rest of the afternoon. And I went home and had
the largest glass of wine imaginable and told some of my friends
and I laughed about that. Because, you know,
its a laugh or cry scenario there. So I laughed, (Laughter) and thank God you laughed too, actually. (Laughter) So that was 20 years ago, and if I was telling that story today,
well, it would look like this. And I could tell the whole world! And I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re thinking: “Why would I humiliate myself
to the point of infinity?” “Why in 2015 would we dwell
on a twisted Descartes quote?” Here’s why: it’ll make us smarter,
more savvy, more self-aware, and more socially effective. In fact I have five things that I want you to think about
in terms of what this will do for us. So, the first reason you should
share more of who you are on social is because it’s cheaper. We all know somebody
who is going on a Facebook diet and who started trawling the dark web
in a bid to avoid the advertising. It’s too late! We cannot put the advertising genie
back in the bottle, so just embrace it, it’s cheaper. The second reason is because
you are doing it anyway. I know you’ve all taken that
“Which Disney princess am I?” test. (Laughter) Yes, boys! Even the “Buzz Lightyears” out there,
I know you’ve done it. And why do we do this? Of course we do, we want to find out
more about who we are, and, especially,
how other people feel about us. So we take endless, daft psychology tests. So, my next piece of advice is: if a brand or a company
asks you to do this, go for it. Here is one, this is Reebok, and it might ask you a question
or a series of questions like this. It takes 30 seconds and, what do you know?
You might find out you are a brain buff. How cool is that? Now, there is actually quite a bit
of psychology behind that little test. And, in some cases there will be
and in others, there won’t. But it doesn’t matter,
because it makes us curious, but more than that,
it makes the brand curious. And that means that whoever is advertising
needs to notice who you are, and what makes you tick, instead of just the commercial
message that makes them tick. The next reason is the bad stuff. Do we know about all the positive stuff? Too much about the positive stuff,
what about the bad stuff? Well, we have serious issues
like cyberbullying, and I know that can make us very sensitive and I am not glossing
over that for an instant. But just like in the real world,
mostly, the internet is a kind place. We are not mean, we are usually
not mean on the internet, there are no mean emojis, I think. So share the sad stuff,
share the difficult stuff, because by doing that you
are teaching the rest of us how to develop real empathy. And it brings more depth
to our social conversations. Now, I know that the next tricky point
is this emoji business again. What if you are thinking: “I know, I am going to have
to exaggerate wildly, amplify everything through emoji
just to get my point across.” Well, I don’t believe
that is going to be the case. Remember: its about real
exchange, authentic exchange, and actually, one of the things
that we really want from technology in the future is for it to teach us
how to be our best selves. We want the internet
through artificial intelligence to teach us how to be better in the future based on all the things
we actually do today. And soon, that will be possible. In fact, as well as that, we will have
artificial emotional intelligence. If we can tell and share
socially how we feel, in the future we will know more
about things like: who we should date,
what career we should have, what we should consume. How we would live
emotionally balanced lives based on our emotional tendencies. How fantastic would that be? And the last reason is because of this: it will make us a better person. This is the XO network,
it was born earlier this year, and it’s a very simple concept: it invites us to post
our gratitude to others. It asks us to say thank you
to someone or something that has brought about
some nice, social impact. And anyone can instigate this,
a person, a charity, a brand that wants to drive us
towards greater social good. And it doesn’t matter
what you feel strongly about; maybe your deal is animals. Well, you can pay to protect one,
and you can tweet one of these emoticons and save your favorite,
endangered species. Or maybe you are into politics. CNN have just brought out
a range of emojis for the 2016 presidential candidates. So maybe the next American president will in part be elected
thanks to emoticons. But again, it doesn’t matter
what it is that you care about. What matters is that you care, that you
feel and that you show that you feel. Because facilitating human brilliance
drives us all to connect in better ways and it pushes us towards
greater social good. The web is warming up, emojis are just getting started, and emotional intelligence is on its way,
and that’s a really great thing. Because if we want brands to stop
selling us stuff that we don’t need, and if we want to connect
to people over really cool things, and if we want to express ourselves in new, and different, and creative
and interesting ways, then we need to ally our online lives
to make our offline lives better. So find your ego, tell the world how you feel, get emojional, and believe that we share,
therefore, we are. I believe it will make the world
a more enterprising place, a more curious place, and ultimately a warmer, more human place. So I am going to carry on
sharing with virtual strangers and I hope you will join me. Thank you. (Applause)

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