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Social Interaction Design

SxD in Theory: Psychology

In spite of all the social in social media, there's no denying that online social interactions can be isolating, distant, and unemotional or affectless. At the end of the day it is a medium through which users, by self-motivating and engaging themselves in the presentation of a social experience, invent and imagine their way through communication and social interaction.

This is how modern media work — and for better or worse it's how social media work, too. We don't doubt that the superbowl is real, or that we're watching it live, and for reasons that would escape most of the rest of the animal kingdom, we get excited by the reality of what happens on that screen (six second delay or no). In order to sustain individual user involvement in social media, content and features have to successfully put user psychology into play. Users need to be able to imagine, reflect, monitor, and when they face doubts, risk, embarassment, surprise, curiosity, or any other kind of ambiguity, it should be possible for them to succeed nonetheless at what they're doing. As it should be possible for the site to benefit from their actions and behaviors. This is all a matter of psychology, for it involves what users think they're accomplishing as much as anything else.

The user is a person — whose personal interests are best piqued through unknowns


  • In the absence of immediate response and reaction to user participation, users invent and project their interpretations and assumptions
  • Self involvement and involvement in others is mediated and engages projection and introspection
  • Projective: seeing
  • Commenting, rating, digging, favoriting, tagging
  • Introspective: being seen
  • Blogging, recording video performances, journaling, profile maintenance and tweaking


  • Users will project the other's intentions, motives, interests, desires, skills, and other attributes based in part on what they hope for or wish to see
  • Users particularly project into ambiguity and communication and when user identities are concealed or only partially revealed
  • Projection can result in users over-communicating and over-compensating
  • Projection may be more Other-oriented


  • Some social media user practices primarily engage the user with him or herself
  • In these kinds of activities, users become involved in their own ideas, perceptions, interpretations, and assumptions
  • Introspection can result in users engaging primarily in telling about themselves and crafting an online persona
  • Introspective activities may appear as a distant and anti-social performance
  • Introspection may be more Self-oriented

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