Social Media and Symbiosis

Scientists and biologists have talked about symbiosis, a word derived from the ancient Greek meaning syn- “with” and biosis-“living” since Plato was a pup. In the late 18 hundreds, social scientists began using the term in connection with people living together in mutual relationships. In nature, there are three common types of symbiotic relationships, mutualistic, commensalistic and parasitic. It is my assertion that these three relationships are also present in our social media world. Which relationship type are you?

Mutualistic relationships are described as a relationship wherein both parties benefit. A great example from nature of this type is the Clown Fish and the sea anemone. A sea anemone has hundreds of poisonous tentacles to ward off predators, but the clown fish is immune to the poison. He hides from his enemies in the tentacles, eats small invertebrates and his waste feeds the anemone. Let’s not take this analogy too far, but the best types of relationships in the social media world are mutualistic, where both parties benefit. There are many great examples of businesses sharing educational and entertaining posts which enhance the lives of their fans. Their fans, in turn, visit the business and serve as ambassadors for their store by recommending you and your page or site.

The Chevrolet MirayCommensalistic relationships are recognized as those in which one party benefits and the other is not harmed or helped in any way. There are few examples of commensalism in nature and in social media, but I think a good example is my photograph of the Miray from the NAIAS. Several dealerships have “borrowed” it for their Facebook cover picture. They benefit by having a striking cover picture and I, in no way am harmed or will I benefit in any way.

Parasitic relationships exist when one party benefits and the other is harmed. We all know people who behave in a parasitic manner. The best thing about social media is, when people act parasitic, you can block or delete them. For what it’s worth, don’t be a social media parasite and don’t accept them in your life.

Social media is based on people “living with” and relating to each other. You and your team can build healthy social media relationships by focusing on becoming more mutualistic.

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