Physiological and Connection Needs

A smartphone with a solid data plan and/or reliable internet access has been added to the list of basic needs that included air, water, food, sleep, shelter, clothing, warmth, and sex in Maslow’s original model. New research shows the sickness, irritation, pain or discomfort an individual feels when they are separated from their smartphone for just one hour is equivalent to what a person experiences after five days without water.

Homeostasis without a smartphone is simply impossible during this juncture in our civilization.

Safety and Bias-Confirmation Needs

While love, security and a functional family still have a place (albeit a small one) at this stage of the hierarchy, the ultra-connected, individualistic nature of our existence has made bias-confirmation a much more critical aspect of our ability to be safe and reach the next level of Maslow’s (mostly) still relevant pyramid. In short, we need to know our deeply held but seldom examined beliefs are validated in the corners of the internet we tend to frequent.

Whether it’s through the echo chamber of Facebook or the comments section of a conspiracy-driven website (i.e., Infowars), we need to see that, as crazy and chaotic as this world may seem, there are still plenty of people who feel the exact same way as we do — as long as we search hard enough for them.

Love, Like, Share, and Retweet Needs

In this day and age, the midpoint of the hierarchy is all about engagement, the knowledge that others are not only hearing our unique and highly personal take on the human condition but also reacting to our brilliant observations online. Humans need to feel loved and accepted by others, and the easiest way to achieve this feeling of belonging is by garnering an unending stream of likes, shares, retweets, etc., on the many social media accounts we post to obsessively.

Of course, while the social media validation of a few dozen close friends and family members will never cease to produce that always-satisfying hit of dopamine in our brains, it will never take us to the next level. That’s only possible if we …

Esteem Following Needs

… Build a following. That’s right, Esteem Needs have evolved into Following Needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 2.0. Can someone still live a reasonably happy and satisfied life with a measly 400-500 Instagram followers or without the coveted blue “verified” checkmark on Twitter? Possibly. But what’s the point in being happy if no one knows just how happy you are?

If you make even a single post to a personal social media account (statistically speaking 99.99999% of the world’s population does), your aim is to reach an audience. And if you’re attempting to reach an audience, it’s safe to say you’re also attempting to gain a following. And if you’re unsuccessful at getting said following, you’re never going to make it to the top of this shallow, self-obsessed pyramid.

Self-Actualization Becoming a Ubiquitous Personal Brand

Like a Buddhist achieving nirvana, reaching the final rung on the ladder of fulfillment is a virtual impossibility for most. Despite lottery-like odds against achieving this level, we should never tire of growing our following, tweaking our value-alignment and teaming up relevant thought leaders, disruptors, and influencers to weave our personal brand into the fabric of the world’s collective consciousness.

After all, if a talentless family built a billion-dollar empire via a cleverly marketed sex tape and a frequently bankrupt reality TV clown became the President of United States on the strength of a bile-filled Twitter account, anything is possible.