The Social Organism — Book Summary and Review

The Social Organism – Book Review

I would rate The Social Organism at 6/10★.

The book focuses on one intriguing concept where they apply biology (the working of evolution, immunology and epidemiology) in order to explain how social networks behave and adapt. This analogy resonates and may impel you to rethink on how you regard social networks and their impact on human culture.


The Social Organism – Book Summary

The analogy is that the network of social media works as a living thing. Where its cells are those who create and share ideas in posts, articles, videos and other content. Successful ideas replicate an spread across networks like viruses. Or Viral, as we know it.


“Meme”, a term coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 refers to anything that conveys an idea. A highly successful meme can carry an idea that could reach millions of people. Ideas that replicate morph into memes and spread further, changing the culture in small but meaningful ways – just as successful viruses burst out from their host cells, infecting other cells and changing the organism.

Organized religion was among the first groups to understand the power of memes, as seen in its use of bells, powerful imagery and text, like the Bible. The printing press radically changed this power, as did public education. Radio, newspapers, TV and movies expanded public access to information. Mass, open control of information didn’t arrive until the Internet and social media.

However, the meme is also like a weapon, misused, the impact could be devastating. Think of the image of dancing Jesus. It destroys the sanctity of a holy figure. The main reason why Muslims don’t have a picture / pictorial representation of our holy prophet Muhammad SAW.


Social Organism Needs Oxygen

As in any organism, they need oxygen or basically other necessities.

And oxygen here is referring to the oxygen of open sharing.

For example, Facebook tops social media with 1.5 billion users. But its proclivity to censorship and control means that a more open system might surpass it in the future.

Newer social media, like Twitter, remain less policed but bend to advertisers and investors. Snapchat, where photos and messages disappear soon after receipt, may have found an edge that attracts younger users. Vine, using Twitter’s approach, permits videos no longer than six seconds and boasts more than 200 million users.

As social networks combine with distributed super-computing, the potential for instantly sharing the best ideas – crowd-sourcing everything – increases.

“The…content that best succeeds within the social media architecture is not based in fear, sadness or fury. What works is optimal, positive emotional resonance.”

Understanding Social Media

Only a rarefied few make a living on social media. And, normally, their grip slips swiftly. They must constantly stay ahead of what their audiences want. 

“It’s hard to predict how content will be received and treated. Often what seems like a harmless, open-minded message can prompt an unexpectedly negative backlash.”


Serotonin and Oxytocin

Happy memes, like jokes and cute videos, go viral so often because they trigger the release of rewarding neurochemicals, serotonin and oxytocin, which inspire people to pass them along. Anger works because it releases adrenaline which is also an equally addictive drug.

“If you want to create an appealing persona and a positive impression among certain people or target markets, then the content you feed them should convey that positivity.”

To make messages that will last a long time, use a classic storytelling structure in your messaging and memes so people will recognize your tales and welcome them.

Social media provide the greatest mechanism yet for involving more people in storytelling. You can take on other personas, see others’ perspectives, and escape the confines of race, gender and sexuality.

“With the right connections, planning and money, it’s possible to build a social media distribution network to push content out to the masses.”

Read The Social Organism


Read more:

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk. [9.5/10]

In summary, the book is quite an interesting reading. You should consider getting one and experience a new perspective on social media from a biological analogy and perspective.



Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.