Is ‘Sharing’ Holier Than ‘Creating’? [Part 1]

Is ‘Sharing’ Holier Than ‘Creating’? [Part 1]

You might have seen people fighting for the ownership of the same creation/idea or about rights over an IP. It is a possibility that both might have thought of the very same idea, but then the main question is “Who created it first?”. In that sense it is strikingly similar to territorial fights of animal kingdom and defending “I was here first” argument.

But sharing is very different. Sharing is essentially driven by a lot of things including altruism, which according to Richard Dawkins is actually being smart and as per game theory “an investment in a relationship in the hope of a higher RoI”. That’s how bats end up sharing blood. You can contest the theories but the fact is this – the very idea of ‘sharing’ can make a person feel better about herself. Be it sharing resources, knowledge, stories or content.

Have you seen two people fighting about credit for sharing content?

I once woke up to pings of WhatsApp updates on a group. Two of my friends were fighting about ‘which one of them introduced our group to Kurzgesagt’, the awesome video channel that describes itself with this “Videos explaining things with optimistic nihilism.” (Channel Trailer given below)

None of them created these videos, they are not YouTubers, they don’t even spend that much time on social media, but their passionate discussion for ownership by merely ‘sharing’ the right type of content is very interesting. This begets a question.

Why do people so passionately share something that they did not create?

The answer to this question is in the question itself – they share it because they cannot create it, but they wish they could. There are at least 2 things at play here:

1. Image reconciliation: Look, this is who I could have been.
Imagine a person (Simon) who always wanted to play in his school band as a guitarist. But he did not get a chance. Because, let’s face it, he was not the best guitarist in his school. Then he moved to college full of nerds and he really hoped that finally he could lead the band, but unfortunately there was no band.

Simon, then started to consume music not to entertain himself but to quench this parched desire of creating music. He became one of those who knew everything about everything in Music. If you want to hear good music you ask Simon to share it with you. You don’t ask him to create it. You trust his taste more than his skills. And he reconciles with this image as long as Simon can be an important part of that dream and image that his social circles see – “Simon could have been the one creating this”.

2. Loaded altruism: I have nothing to gain from this

This is specific to the content sharing. Because the content is made of selfish memes, which thrives on sharing. There might be a bit of guilt associated with anything that is irreversible, like self-replicating stories and seeding it. Not being the creator of the content you share, makes you feel less guilty. Take hypothetical scenarios of you sharing something that you created vs something that you did not. Where do you think your friends might feel better about you as a person? Having no vested interest makes us feel better about ourselves. We feel as if we are helping someone else’s story reach out to those who it otherwise will never reach.

Who are these Sharers:

In the words of Micheal Gladwell (in his book The Tipping Point) – these friends are mavens.

Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics” due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. As Gladwell states: “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know”.

So what we have here is a vicarious ownership that people feel over the content that they share with others. These people are the main part of any content marketing campaign and that’s why they are of great interest to everyone in the content ecosystem.

We can learn a lot about ourselves by observing our sharing behaviour. What kind of stories we share, whom we share it with and what is that we expect the network to do with these stories.

I would be keen to know what you think about this story. Moreover I look forward to know what you think can be covered in the part 2 of this post.

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