What do you think of when you think “anthropologist“?

No… not Indiana Jones. Not that we don”t love Indy, he”s just the wrong kind of “ologist“.

An anthropologist studies people. More specifically (according to Mirriam-Webster), they study “human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture”.

So you wouldn”t be surprised to find an anthropologist studying ancient human remains… or observing a primitive tribe to learn more about their society.

But you might be surprised to learn that one anthropologist has conducted an in-depth, year-long study of Facebook.

Yes. Facebook.

The Independent reports on Daniel Miller, Professor of anthropology at University College London, whose research into the anthropological impact of Facebook is the first of its kind.

Facebook has become such an integral part of modern life that anthropologists have to take it seriously. It is impacting on the core thing we study, which is social relations.

So… what did he learn?

The study debunked some popular Facebook myths. For example, Miller found that contrary to some reports Facebook strengthens “authentic” friendships rather than reducing their value. Also, despite its reputation as a “home-wrecker”, Facebook actually reduces affairs as people worry they”ll get caught or exposed by their mobile casino online friends.

Interesting, right? But not really applicable to business. So why did we bring it up?

The study also found that Facebook is redefining “community”.

As Facebook transforms our relationship with public and private, it also updates the notion of community, becoming a simulacrum of the neighbourhoods lost in the West over the past 50 years – a place where people can keep abreast of the lives of their online neighbours.

You know what this means? It means we”re doing the “We were right!” happy dance around the desk again! Here”s why…

We”ve told you before that your customers are on Facebook (and other social media networks), and we”ve told you they”re talking. We”ve also told you to come out from behind your social media counter and meet your customers, the way your grandmother did.

The way we see it, this study backs our opinion that social media is the new neighborhood, and online customer engagement is the modern equivalent of getting to know your neighbors and becoming part of their community.

Pretty cool, right?

Maybe not as cool as Indy… but hey, who is?