Shift ENGAGE | Purpose Built Creative | Round of Applause
We came across an interesting online discussion into the perceived necessity of this learned behavior, and what we found we thought we’d share. The basic question was: why do we clap?
Digital Marketing, Shift Engage, Creative agency, Inspiration, Advertising Zimbabwe, Trends, Digital, Marketing, Branding, Zimbabwe, Adverts, Agency, Innovation, Harare, Clapping, Applause
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Round of Applause

‘I live for the applause, applause, applause!’

Look at us with the pop culture references again. No cure. ‘I live for the applause’ was Lady Gaga’s hook in the 2013 hit, Applause. That song hit the nail on the head in describing the human need for recognition and accompanying hand gesture to signify acceptance.

We came across an interesting online discussion into the perceived necessity of this learned behaviour, and what we found we thought we’d share. The basic question was: why do we clap?

It is said that 5-6 months of age is when we teach babies the association of celebration with clapping, essentially coding this behaviour. We’ve even taught seals to do it. Even more bizarre is how we’ve defined it in waves–hence the term ‘round’ of applause–setting an appropriate pattern of how and when it should be done. We even pat ourselves on the back if there’s no one else around to marvel in our brilliance.

Humans are funny creatures.

So with those insights and other findings, here’s our research piece on digital applause. (BTW We’re expecting ours after this interesting piece J)

Ovation Nation                             

It has been argued as the ‘primitive overflowing of desire to into excessive excitement’ reaction. In social urban speak, it’s when you’re like “I just can’t”. But where did this almighty spilling over of feeling to burn off extra enthusiasm come from?

Like all movement, it’s a transfer of energy, namely kinetic to acoustic. However, as sound engineers and general know-it-alls will tell you, clapping does not make a musical note. It doesn’t sound particularly pleasant. Ask anyone whose speech got too long at an awards show. However, it has stuck as a universal indicator of a job well done.

Human beings by nature crave applomb, and we’ve transferred that part of human experience on to our digital lives as well. Think of that sunken feeling if clever quip or particularly savage post gets NO reaction at all. Not even a random Like. Not good.

In the current trend in the search for individuality, the conflict is the constant pull between wanting to be part of a group and being on your own. Applause straddles the two worlds by showing individual admiration as part of a collective. Clapping is an equalizer for race, age, size, gender. You can blend in, differing opinions and all, into the clapping audience – far less stressful than having to give a direct vote of thanks to everyone who impresses you. Yet the current dispensation of urban culture, where it is very, very easy to become a groupthink zombie, there are still situations where we give and expect praise. This comes back to the original conditioning that states there is an etiquette to applause. You won’t get many smiles for clapping at a funeral. It is either through societal priming or personal faux pas where you learn when applause is acceptable. The discussion is still open as to whether clapping after a movie at the cinema is ok. We don’t know either, we just know how Transformers makes us feel.

Part of the Matrix?

Before you stop yourself from clapping forever for fear of being a sheep, it’s not necessarily a bad behaviour. But, being addicted to hearing it is. (For a Hollywood take on this, watch the film The Artist. You’re welcome.)

Ever wondered why YouTubers always hit us with the “Like, comment or subscribe to my channel” line. Applause, folks. The rise of applause substitutes in social media has allowed the human desire for a “well done” to transfer into the digital space. We can’t clap for them, we can’t physically throw a thumbs-up, so they settle for (in some cases, demand) our digital applause.

We used to have live performance in theatre as a much greater source of entertainment, but not that we can’t hear or see our audience as they applaud our efforts, we need icons and follow counts to prove our worth. That’s why analytics exist, to measure our digital worth and resultant applause in currency. It’s that deep.

On the flip side, it can be argued that having our own personal TVs and cradling our laptops watching Netflix has taken away the need for the clap factor, but by subscribing to a channel and choosing a particular show, forsaking all others, we’re still clapping. Dramatic much, but it’s true. Think of it next time your favourite show is cancelled after Season 1.

Curtain Call

So while applause is a conditioned and expected social gesture for admiration and approval, it’s not a natural reaction. In other words it shouldn’t be a motivator because it doesn’t actually point to achieved results, or to the message sent out actually hitting it’s mark. We just do it (shout out to Nike). It’s just one of the conditioned responses humans never seem to question. However, with the rise of digital applause, where we’d rather film something than get involved and consider that an appropriate response, we really need to question our responses.

With that being said, Like and Share and let’s get everyone thinking.