You wouldn’t know it by looking, but this is a picture of a hula hoop dancer at a children’s party.

Hula Hoops were supposed to be a fad. Just like Social Media.

Seems not so – no fad – but perhaps a form of play that is evolving before us. And, though I’d like to explore lightly in this post the elements of gaming, shifts in business behavior, and that Social Media is more than a fad, I first want to be honest that I feel social media like it’s a hula hoop.

Just like the play of Hula Hoops (that get your body moving,and use both parts of your brain, and get your core moving, and give you happiness)  you don’t know if a video, or post, or tweet, or statement, a poke, a rant, or semicolan and a bracket is going to swing round your hips, and get your brain thinking a new way.

I dig the hip swing of social media – the cultural play we’re exploring. Seems to me that Social Media does these things:

– It’s hide and go seek for ideas

– You always get to try again

– Your gravitar is a costume of your thoughts

– You are allowed to be random in a world of data

– Finally, there’s always a “gimmie” – you can  repost to see if you get more views…or, a higher score (more views or comments).

And, I’m not saying much new here…in terms of the exploration of the play in social and community. But, I see it a bit differently, I see social media as being a part of the body. More on that in a minute.

First, you have to start with Jane McGonigal – – gamer and futurist with the Institute for the Future.

I’m starting with her because she’s the only person I have read talking about social gaming that I understand. It’s not that the others are not clear, it’s that I am not a gaming person, and I understand her language. Also, I’ve been known to make faux paux (you’ll see this theme with me in these posts – because in California these are faux paux – where as in my native New York they’re called opinions…I digress) – yes, the faux paux’s have been when I have asked gaming gods why worlds created by a bunch of white guys in a room leads to anything new, and is it a game if it’s just a reflection of the worst of the world…and so on.

Please picture me asking these questions as though I were still in college with about three months of feminist theory under my belt – that’s as much as I knew about gaming theory when I asked them – I’m trying to change that, and Jane is helping me there.

At any rate, MgGonical, whom I’ve not had the delight to meet yet, get’s at my heart. First I like that she is exploring ideas of gaming from a world changing perspective. And, I like that she places herself, her values into the pictures, and I really really like that she spells words with actual cookies on the ground around the world…how could you not dig her?

The key issue she raises is that if you change the game you change the world. And, if you empower the game developer with an eye on the future, then the games intrinsic infrastructure, rewards and subtext can change the brain towards good actions.  Wonderful idea. I get this. She’s put the body into this picture…in other words, if you change the game from violence, you change the aim of killing the body. For me, her hips, her Hula Hoop as it were, is to force us to wrap the idea of a social game into our play…into our interaction…into our best self.

Dig it.

And, there are others that have been looking at the more flexible parts of us towards social…well, perhaps not the social media element, but the right brain of social behavior – where we think the experience of fun comes from. There are a ton of best sellers and viral books about these topics of integrating new parts of the brain and feelings into modern behavior.

Two examples are:

Daniel Pink’s popular book, “A whole New Mind: how Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future”

Dev Patnaik (with Peter Mortensen), “Wired to Care: How companies prosper when they create widespread empathy”

Ok, what do they have to do with a Hula Hoop of social media?

Both books are looking at how the perceived freedom of the right brain, and how the pattern of behavior of empathy, play important roles in how we engage in business and brands. And, to that point how we use tools for creating communities. These are examples of the thinking going on about how to do business while changing our behavior – therefore grow brands and businesses with an outcome of a bit more good – so, simply doing a job better.

Now, most businesses and brands are using social media to do a better job and connecting – and if you apply Pink and Patniak’s arguments to their social media behavior, they may do some amazing stuff. All good. People pay me to help them with this, and it’s good work – and I respect the work, and those ventures using social media like connective tissue with those they work with/for/about.

But, this is not the hula hoop for me.

The hula hoop effect of Social Media is not the “viral” effect – it is the thing that we don’t talk about much, perhaps it’s because it does not seem cool, or professional, or even grown up: Joy.

The behavior of social media, and more critically (for me) is the intersection of playfulness, chance and the joy (not in discovery per say) but the joy of chance: the joy of not knowing where an idea will land. The joy of not having a final answer. The joy of meeting someone new. The joy of a promise for change.

The joy of your body – the parts of you that feel your passions, your pain, your ideas, your cause, your business, your photos, your videos: these critical things to you  – all of this that lives in you – this is the joy you send out and get back through social media.

This is the Hula Hoop of social media – joy going round and round, and back to you, and out again.

It’s not cool. It’s not a practiced theory. But, I feel it. And, we all  need it. Joy.

Like our hula hoop dancer below – her face is our face in the joy of social play.

Let’s embrace it as well – it’s good for us us. And, perhaps, good for business as well.

So, come on baby, swing.