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There was a study recently that suggested that Facebook causes depression -- they say that teens who read about all the wonderful things that other teens are doing fall deeper into depression because their empty, hollow lives just don't stack up to the beautiful people on Facebook.
So what? Virtual peer pressure is more virulent than face-to-face peer pressure? It's the same crap we've all dealt with our whole lives -- we want things we can't have and we assume other people are having a much better time than we are.
Blogs, photo galleries and status updates are just 24/7 Christmas letters... Like William Goldman's classic, The Princess Bride, we get the "good parts edition." Social updates are like resume inflation -- guarded tidbits with the pain and grit of real life glossed over with a self editing eye.
I like to think that adults are better at separating the "keeping up with the Joneses" content from the important, "real" world, but the fact that I put the word "real" in quotes just says how little I really believe that. Marketing is all about talking to our insecurities and telling us how our lives can be a little better with just one or two minor adjustments... why everyone is doing it, so why don't you?
Marketers are getting more and more savvy about tapping into the cacophonous, stream-of-consciousness we call "Social Media." They're drawing conclusions about who we are and what we want, and they're using that data to tell us who we should be and what we should want.
My unanswerable question is this -- are they getting real data out of the status updates, or are they using the stream of one-upmanship as a kind of corporate Rorschach's test seeing what they want to see?
My guess is that it doesn't matter if Lisa had an AMAZING Bat Mitzvah; the fact she made it look like she did, and the fact that she got so many "Likes" on Facebook about her coming of age party means that next Fall, we're going to be pushing a line of Jerusalem Barbie products.
And because Gabriella liked the online appearance of Lisa's Bat Mitzvah so much, she's going to be badgering her parents to have a party just like the one she saw online.
So the next step in social media is social media engineering -- we've already seen The Superpowers of the Hive Mind like Sarah Palin and Fox News create a feedback loop in the news/entertainment/political world and we've seen some great viral campaigns like the Old Spice Guy... but how long until we think we're coming up with the ideas but they're really coming from the board room?
Now that idea is depressing, because I'm pretty sure it's already happened.