Social (I) – Semantics

le 1 février 2011 par

Social network, Corporate Social Responsibility, social welfare, social economy… there are so many meanings for the same word. The etymology itself is wide, yet comparable from one sense to the other; the Latin socius means: companion, ally, associate. Let’s take each of them and try to make sense of the slight differences.

Companion means “eating together”, that is the base of human relations since man emerged; Prehistoric times established the common abode, the collective search for food, etc. It is the base of human values leading into cultural development and materialistic grounding, the most natural, subtle means for solidarity that make sense in the adaptation mode that Darwin put forward when he said: it is the not the strongest, it is not the most intelligent that will survive but the most adaptable to change!

Ally becomes more involved, as it brings together individuals behind walls in what could be construed as defensive. It can be associated with friendship. What you need then are criteria for living along the same lines, behaviors that are adopted by all, a way to development that forces you to line up (like in an army) but also a sense of direction and relationship that goes along. We are now in the more normative role that allows people to be close to each other, leading into friendships but also opposition.

Associate gives immediately a sense of social object, a common purpose, whether aimed at material wealth or spiritual goals; we now have a structure, an organization that has commercial or not-for-profit purposes, with systems that ensure the whole thing sticks together and responds to its objective. We are also talking of the regulatory body of work that enables evaluation and controls needed as a gel providing constraints; it has its load of rigidity that can, in return, have its toll.

Man needs to constantly review the tenants of society from basic solidarity to improved relationships all the way into systems and, when the later becomes too rigid and man has gone too far in using rules and regulations, the tendency is to go backwards:

• Reinventing the economy to make it social: equitable marketing, microcredit, etc.

• Reinventing relationships for individuals: social networks, games through the net, etc.

• Reinventing even the tribe, bringing people back to their roots: family, land, etc.

If you look carefully at the word “social”, there are three distinct meanings from the roots of companionship, to the trunk of lined up allies, all the way to the association of branches and leaves that bear the fruits of society. To take the metaphor one step further, when fruits become a bit sour, you need to go back to the proper functioning of the trunk that leads sap from the ground into the upper reaches of the tree: isn’t it what we have done recently with social networks, whether in personal or professional usages?

Full circle, back to basics; thanks to the crisis! This is why it is so important for companies to let the sap flow into the organization with good and efficient use of social and information networking!

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