courtesy Pixabay via Creative Commons
A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of going on a field trip with my second grader to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. We spent the warm and sunny morning touring the grounds and learning about biomimicry. It was fascinating to discover how people have observed and gained insight from nature, copying the successful designs that have evolved over millions of years in the plants and animals around us.
Biomimicry is defined as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then uses these designs and processes to solve human problems”, according to biomimicry.net (which is a cool site when you have a few minutes to kill, by the way). Just as the name would suggest, biomimicry is taking designs that work in the natural word (bio), and copying and applying those concepts (mimicry) to our own challenges.
For example, we learned about a quiet, aerodynamic train that swiftly and silently cuts through the air, inspired by the long thin bill of a bird that can quietly dive into the water to catch fish without making a lot of commotion. Another example was how funnels are best for catching more rainwater, which can be likened to the shape of the agave plant. It’s shaped in a way that allows rainwater caught on the outside edges of its long broad leaves to trickle in and down toward the plant’s roots.
Last night I had a little light bulb moment when I remembered an article about social media brands mimicking people. It asserts that the most successful brands in social media are those with personality, that are self-aware, understand hyperbole and make clever jokes with followers. For example, Tesco Mobile has a personable and sometimes biting tone depending on the interaction, and Taco Bell talks to followers like a friend (see image). This got me thinking about biomimicry in social media. There are more and more brands successfully employing personality and acting like one of your friends than a brand trying to sell you something.
Can we take social media mimicking relationships further than selling? In an online article published by the Mayo Clinic, the importance of social support cannot be overlooked in the healing process: “Taking the time to build a social support network is a wise investment not only in your mental well-being, but also in your physical health and longevity. Research shows that those who enjoy high levels of social support stay healthier and live longer.” Unfortunately, developing and maintaining a social support system is challenging for chronically ill patients. Chronic pain causes fatigue and depression; mobility challenges can make it difficult to get out with friends; and some patients are geographically isolated from friends and family.
Could that real world social support system be mimicked through social media? Would patients benefit as much from the virtual support and social connections when healing if a hospital integrated social media platforms directly into TVs along with on-demand entertainment and education? Or by providing Wi-Fi and charging stations for personal electronics, or even social media training and moderated closed patient groups?
A manuscript published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information had this to say: “During the last 30 years, researchers have shown great interest in the phenomena of social support, particularly in the context of health. Prior work has found that those with high quality or quantity of social networks have a decreased risk of mortality in comparison to those who have low quantity or quality of social relationships, even after statistically controlling for baseline health status.” Further, a study cited in the publication found that those with lower social interaction and less social support were 1.5 times more likely to have a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and were twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital than patients with strong social support systems. Also of note, those providing support also benefited, according to the publication, elderly individuals who provided social support and felt more useful experienced fewer incidences of disability and mortality.
Mimicking in-person friendships and support systems for patients is the next evolution of social media. While brands sounding more like people will be the future of marketing success for the foreseeable future, we can take the true usefulness of social media further. The intersection of technology and healing are just being explored, and the concept of virtual support systems mimicking in-person relationships has the potential to revolutionize the way we look at healthcare and getting better.
Email me today to be added to the advance release list for my forthcoming publication, The Healthcare Executive’s Guide to Social Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.