Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is social media the cure for depression - or are we just faking all those smiles, all that OMG I LOVE YOU?

I listened to CMO of Deloitte David Redhill last night at a Dow Jones event, and he told us how their internal communication strategy had successfully used blogs to connect people within the company, and how twitter had helped them in their branding. He showed us several tweets from people who “loved their job”, and he told us how they all collaborated through microblogging and how Deloitte had found the perfect talent within minutes after posting a vacancy online. Hallelujah!  
It makes me wonder how the culture changes when everyone is “forced” to be positive? I say “forced” because of course, staff of Deloitte won´t whinge about low salaries, horrible bosses or workload in public, for their CEO to see. They will more likely tell the world how much they love their job – perhaps in order to please their boss, get a pay rise or make people feel they are Happiness Rich.
I believe happiness is a status symbol today, maybe more so than money. Everyone in the Western world has money, right? But being “happy”? In a society so overwhelmed by choices we are more depressed than ever. So the happiest person wins our admiration. We like happy smiling people; it kind of rubs off.
Social media has changed the way we talk and see life. On Facebook, everyone is so cheerful, so excited about the trips they go to, the views they see or the parties they attend. Our social life on social media is hyper happy.  Nobody posts a photo of themselves on a bad hair day, crying, feeling lonely in front of the telly. No!!! Those photos are quickly deleted – in our head too – and the future generation will see the social media era as the happiest ever. “Wow, they were always smiling, looking stunning, sipping wine on holidays!!!” Nostalgic people will forever look at 2000-2020 as the place to be!
On Twitter, most posts are hunky dory, la-la-la. And when you tweet on your employer´s own site, there is very little chance you will be open about anything that is negative or critical. You might lose your job, and people will find you annoying.
This leads to an interesting question:
-          Is social media making people fake a reality that is hidden underneath?
-          Or is reality changing when we only put the light on the good things in our lives?
Are we suppressing unhappiness or is it vanishing? Is always “pretending” to be happy actually making us feel genuinely better?
Studies have found that we think a wine taste better if we believe it is expensive. We buy more expensive items on a menu if classical music is played in the background. And if we get cuddled, oxytocin is unleashed in our body, our long term memory improves and our urge to shop reduces. Odd, but hey it´s science!
This means there is no “truth”, no objectivity. It´s all in the eye of the beholder. People constantly change. We transform when dancing with circumstances. We mould into the environment like chameleons. We try to fit in, and we do this both consciously and subconsciously.
This is why I believe that when we “fake” being happy, our brain gets so used to being happy and focused on the light events worth tweeting about and posting on Facebook, that we actually get better at being happy.
Happiness is a choice. You can look at any situation from several angles and perceive it differently. For example, you can smash your car and be upset about the car getting damaged – or you can thank God for not being dead. You can walk through any day and see the lovely tasting lunch, the sun, the smiling bus driver – or you can put your head down and worry about the mortgage. It´s up to you! And as with any other muscle, your happiness muscle gets stronger when it´s used.  
I wonder if social media is the ultimate cure for depression? I wonder if Deloitte´s staff is hiding their agony elsewhere, perhaps shouting at their spouses, or if they suddenly say “OMG, I LOVE life”? Is the “Happiness rich” person happy for real – or is she just tweeting?
What do you think?
Some information about social media and brands:
Consumers are spending more time than ever using social media, as demonstrated in the Social Media Report recently published by Nielsen and NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company.
- 60 percent of consumers researching products through multiple online sources learned about a specific brand or retailer through social networking sites.
- Active social media users are more likely to read product reviews online, and 3 out of 5 create their own reviews of products and services.
- Women are more likely than men to tell others about products that they like (81% of females vs. 72% of males).
- Among those who share their brand experiences through social media, at least 41 percent say they do so to receive discounts.
- When researching products, social media users are likely to trust the recommendations of their friends and family most, and results from Nielsen’s Global Online Survey indicate that 2 out of 3 respondents said they were either highly or somewhat influenced by advertising with a social context.
- 58 percent of social media users say they write product reviews to protect others from bad experiences, and nearly 1 in 4 say they share their negative experiences to “punish companies”.
- 42 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds acknowledging that they expect customer support within 12 hours of a complaint.
- A majority of active social networkers (53%) follow brands.

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