Chances are you would. At least this is the conclusion that Kacie Kinzer has come to. The NYU graduate student has been conducting an experiment on the sidewalks of Manhattan where she sets free her small, human-dependent robots and observes.
The tiny, 10-inch smiling Tweenbots, able to move only in a straight line at a constant speed, bump into all kinds of trouble. But equipped with a flag displaying their destination, they overcome challenges, obstacles and curbstones, thanks to the kindness of strangers. Passersby and pedestrians seem more than glad to read the flag, right the Tweenbot, and send the little rolling object on its way.
For the last few months I’ve used the Tweenbot case study in all of my social media presentations. What’s it have to do with social media you ask? Simple, it teaches us three important lessons.
1. People will help if you make it easy for them
They’ll be especially willing to help if they can see their small effort contributing to a larger whole. Social media is ideal for this. You won’t turn your avatar green if it takes 20 minutes or if only three other people change theirs. But if it takes just a click of the mouse and you feel as if you’re contributing to something significant you’ll take action.
2. People will do the right thing when the community is watching
While Kacie expected disaster, it never came. Why? Who is going to step on, crush, or otherwise mess with a helpless Tweenbot on the busy sidewalks of Manhattan when the urban tribe is watching? We see the same in social communities all the time. Aware of the community’s presence we act accordingly; we shout out the people who do good and call out those who don’t.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask
I don’t mean the blatant, self-serving request for an RT, but rather the confidence to ask for help or advice, or information. Chances are you’ll discover human generosity in abundance. Same holds true when you’re seeking support for a cause or just trying to spread the news about a new product or service.
On her one page website sharing the story of Tweenbots, Kacie Kinzer closes with this thought. “As each encounter with a helpful pedestrian takes the robot one step closer to attaining its destination, the significance of our random discoveries and individual actions accumulates into a story about a vast space made small by an even smaller robot.”
Random discoveries, individual actions, a vast space made small. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like social media?