On sharing and appreciation

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Photo courtesy of Dionna Raedeke


The act of sharing involves two or more people. At least two.

Sharing involves participation. Active participation. By two or more people. At least two.

Not two anythings. Two people. Not machines. People.

In the past I’ve written about the role of design in sharing; about why people share, and what people share; if you’re interested in the subject, please just search for “share” on this blog and you’ll see dozens of posts. Today I want to concentrate on another, critical, aspect to sharing.

Speed. And intensity.

Any activity that involves two or more people needs to be based on something tacit, an understanding of the reciprocity implied within the relationship(s). We humans are subtle creatures, and our understanding of reciprocity is nuanced, shaded, complex. So the reciprocity is not necessarily either short-term nor crude. You don’t expect that everyone will buy everyone else a drink when there are “rounds” at a bar, at least not in the same evening. But “over time” you expect a balance. You don’t expect that everything you do for someone else is going to be reciprocated in the same currency by the specific recipient: there’s an altruistic pay-it-forward mentality in many of us. We are not, in the main, manipulative creatures; our expectations of reciprocity are probably better described by a sense, an expectation, of “fairness” rather than a mechanical give-and-take. Compromises are involved, trade-offs do happen, but usually not in any simple short-term bilateral space.

Instead, we have this notion of fairness. Sometimes this extends into something even harder to describe, a sense of what is “reasonable”.

So when two people meet and start to build a relationship, when they begin to share things — time, experiences, views, beliefs, ideas, anecdotes, whatever — there is a need to watch for these human notions. Notions of what is fair. And notions of what is reasonable.

[All this has nothing to do with technology. Not yet anyway.]

Most of us seem to be able to pick up the signals to determine what the appropriate levels of reciprocity are, in the context of fair and reasonable. And then we put that learning into practice as we navigate each relationship. It’s a voyage of discovery, one where the pace and the depth of the conversation is  tacitly negotiated by the parties involved.

And relationships grow and flourish as a result.

These things, natural to us in the world of flesh and blood, are much harder to achieve in digital space. But they matter nevertheless.

In a digital relationship, you do have to care about what you share, how much you share, and how quickly you do it. Sharing is meaningless unless what you share is appreciated by the people you share it with.

Appreciated. Now there’s a good word. Appreciation is about estimation of worth, appraisal. It is also about something increasing in value.

When you share something, think about who you’re sharing with, why you’re sharing. Think also about whether the person or people you’re sharing with will appreciate your action.

Because the value of sharing comes in the appreciation.

6 thoughts on “On sharing and appreciation”

  1. @Jeff I live in hope that technology continues to get used to reduce frictions and latencies that it’s good at reducing, and leaving humans to do what humans are best at. I feel enriched at not having to conquer slide rules and log tables and sin cos tan tables. I did them when I was young, and I feel all the better for not having to do them any more. I agree with you completely on this one: as long as we are careful and human in our approach, we can use the help of technology while engaging with others with compassionate aims. And yes, I’d seen the video and loved it.

  2. JP, After my colleague died I went over some of the influences on his work on business for social purpose, there was a recurring theme of love and compassion from the humanist influence in psychology.

    I knew also that he’d studied Eastern philosophy and in The Bhagavad Gita I understand, we may find that ultimate state is in altruism without attachment to the result.

    Joining the Charter for Compassion as a partner seemed congruent with our own ideals, the interpretation is the golden rule of reciprocity common to all major faiths.


  3. Often I wonder why enterprise software is shoddy at achieving a feeling of social sharing, like in the flesh and blood, in the digital space. Might it be application designers are thinking of two or more anythings, machines, not two people (Facebook has Like, SAP has enter?).

  4. Machines need protocols and standards and connections. And then they’re done. Humans need dignity and respect and fairness and reasonableness and and and

  5. Really interesting, JP!
    One other point for this reflection: we often share something which means nothing to us but which is worth a ton to the receiver. How much is it worth to the receiver when it comes to appreciation or even reciprocation?
    From what I witness, the answer to that questions really depends on the personality of the receiver.

Let me know what you think

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