On February 18, PBS Frontline aired a fascinating documentary investigating the psychological motivations of social media users and content producers. While I suspect nothing much has changed with regard to human nature, and our innate desire to be appreciated by our peers, what has changed is the scale on which that can now occur. For the first time in the history of human civilization, a person can become adored (or loathed) by millions, practically overnight.
One interesting observation made by the producers of Generation Like is that the younger users of social media don't have any conception of selling out when they shill for product manufacturers...in fact, it is seen now as a badge of honor to become a walking advertisement. This amazing reversal of attitude has made social media the most important and dynamic channel for brand and image building.
Watch entire episode at Pbs.org