Friday, January 1, 2010

Consumption Reports

Facebook and twitter are constant reminders of what a loser I am. I know in real-time exactly what parties I'm missing, what fancy restaurants I'm not eating in, where I'm not vacationing, and the beautiful weather I'm missing by being inside.

At first, I felt pretty good about all the parties and events I was invited to, and all the friends that I can prove I have. After a while, though, it became clear that my friends were throwing and attending more parties than I am, eating fancier food than I am, and visiting places I wish I were visiting. To top it all off, a lot of my friends have more friends than I do.

For a while, I consoled myself in saying they were RSVPing for parties they weren't really attending and tripitting places they weren't really going. But the pictures say it all. Even when my friends don't brag, their friends post pictures of them, quite obviously having a better time than I am.

As a marketing person, it makes me wonder about the future of promotion. My friends are promoting parties, restaurants and travel destinations, not to mention consumer electronics and other items. Nobody is monetizing that, and, in fact, nobody really can.

Another result is that a natural escalation of consumption reporting. This morning I made myself eggs and toast, and I made sure to post that I had salmon omelet, whole-wheat walnut/pistachio toast, and homemade kumquat marmalade. Most days I have a piece of fruit, and it doesn't make it to my status report, not even if it's a mango or pomegranate. If I take a trip to London, I tell you, but I don't tell you it's on business or just so I can do a course, or if I took a loan to fund my wild vacation. I don't mention that I actually didn't spend any time sightseeing or even shopping and that I barely slept for 4 days running and took the red-eye both directions and went straight from the airport back to work (unless I feel like bragging about what a martyr I am, which is definitely what I am doing now).

There's nothing wrong with this kind of reporting, but it definitely feeds into the culture of consumption and consumerism. I have 600 friends and follow another couple of hundred people, and I've never seen anyone report on their meditation practice.

Most of the posts regarding time spent with family are either about expensive entertainment (travel, amusement parks) or frustrations with sick or cranky children. You don't see much "Just watching my kids in the playground with extreme satisfaction." or "Stayed home with the kids tonight just because they said they wanted me home."

If I have to be perfectly truthful, though, it's astonishingly gratifying knowing that my son doesn't want me to go out, even when he's asleep, just because he wants me "around". Or at least that's what I tell myself while reading what a great time everyone else had last night...

Wishing everyone a very healthy and happy new year, and may your life be as wonderful, fulfilling and exciting as your posts and tweets.


Dave E said...

Kudos, Rebecca, on a fantastic post that's very telling of a noticeable and (I believe) mostly unfortunate trend.
There seems to be, for many folks participating in social networks (self included), a shallowing of our reported-upon "lives." So now I'm asking myself the question, why don't most of us report on our meditative practice, our conversations with God, the efforts we make to deepen our most intimate and central relationships and improve their quality (and the times when those efforts fail), and the work we do on ourselves to grow and develop? Have most of us really become that shallow, vain, and materialistic? Or do we just figure that the *essential* content of our lives is just too revealing (or otherwise TMI) to share with folks who may be making decisions as to whether we get hired, fired, promoted, upgraded, or marginalized? I'd like to assume (and truthfully, I do believe) that the private--and inner--lives that we actually live are rather deeper and richer than the ones we're willing to report on FB. I hear what you're saying about all the fancy-shmancy jet setting, partying, and acquirement that might have the occasional -- and I hope unintended -- effects of making us feel less adequate than we ought. Yet I'm also willing to bet that for most of us, as far as actual quality of life goes, most of this fun stuff is just the outer layer covering an inner core representing our deeper humanity and humanness.
Thanks so much for sharing.
Shabbat shalom.

Anonymous said...
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Rebecca Rachmany said...

Dave, thanks for your thoughtful response.
What if we just assume the way people post is a social norm, and like any social norm or trend it could be shifted? What if we started our own trend and called it a game people could join. We could post our game on our notes and ask people to join the game.

Here are some suggested rules. Add some of your own, and I'll post them as a note to my profile, and pass it along.

If you are in the game, you will periodically make a "positive contribution post". If you post several times an hour, periodically is defined as once per hour; if you post several times a day, periodically is once a day, and so on.

Positive contribution posts can *Complimenting or expressing gratitude to another person
*Mentioning your spiritual practice (meditation, yoga, etc. count)
*Saying how you contributed to someone else's life
*Offering to donate an item or time
*Saying you made a donation to a particular organization
*Sharing a touching or moving incident

If you are in the game, you will NOT do each of the following more than once per week.

*Mention restaurant and gourmet food you are eating (unless you really are a chef or you are on vacation)
*Talk about purchase of any item that cost more than $100
*RSVP as attending events that you have no intention of attending.

How's that for a game? Maybe we can start a trend.

Apropos worrying about whether our real life makes a good or bad impression on future employers or friends, posting of the good life can also have a detrimental effect. I have at least one friend who tweets images of fancy meals often enough that I would hesitate to consider them for a job, both because they spend a lot of time eating out, and because their restaurant budget implies high salary expectations.

Anonymous said...

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Dave E said...

Sounds like a fantastic idea, Rebecca. Let's do it. I'll follow your lead in terms of the FB post. I might focus my post more upon the do's than the don'ts, but I get your overall drift.
Have already started "postivizing" my tweets and status updates (and getting good feedback!).

Thanks for the initiative!


HAIM said...

You live the real life, so you are a winner!