|  December 27 2011  |   Blog   |   3 COMMENTS

Last Thursday business strategy consultant and Fast Company contributor Don Peppers posted an insightful blog on social media envy and competition.  To summarize: In 1993 the SEC forced CEOs of public companies to disclose their salaries. Since then, CEO pay has increased exponentially, running contrary to the SEC’s desired effect.  Some have theorized that this is due to the fact that CEOs at other companies can now see what their peers are being paid, and in the natural human spirit of competition and envy, need to ensure that they themselves will not be outdone.  Peppers postulates that we are now seeing a similar issue occur socially, due to the rise of social networks.  Increased transparency into the lives of our peers has led to new competition and envy, as is evidenced by number of Facebook friends, publicly displayed job titles, posted pictures of newly acquired cars or houses, etc.

While Peppers brings to light some important thoughts on the effect of social networks on our personal lives, his argument is logically flawed.  The SEC’s mandate forcing transparency led directly to better pay for CEO’s through competition and envy.  If followed logically, his reasoning would dictate that increased transparency through social networks would lead to better social existences for users for the same reason.  While it is hard to determine quantitatively, I believe it is safe to assume that few have truly better personal lives because of their activity on social networks.  A reason for the flaw in Peppers’ argument is that the competition and envy on social networks is not based on the events in one’s life, but on the public self-portrayal of one’s life.  Social networks do lead to greater transparency, but it is selective transparency.

We are represented online by alter-egos that are more-perfect images of our true selves.  We can make ourselves seem smarter by displaying to our friends that we regularly catch up on world affairs via the Washington Post Reader app, but can delete that post of us reading about Snooki’s weight problems.  We can convey our coolness by listening to that ultra-hip Childish Gambino track on Spotify which none of our friends have “listened” to yet, but choose to hide the five times we rocked out to “Mumbo No. 5.” A friend tweeted a funny comment that received 20 retweets, so we decide to match his comedic prowess with our own funny tweet, only in our case, nobody liked it.  So, we can delete the tweet, as if we never thought it in the first place.

No one is becoming more intelligent, attractive, funny or cool because of social media envy.  Instead, the improvement lies in our online avatars, the personal vision of our idealized selves.  We remain more humanly flawed; they become more inhumanly perfect.  What does that mean for our interactions with each other moving forward? While Peppers’ logic may be faulty, there is another comparison I would like to raise between the end result of the SEC’s mandate and social media transparency.  Arguably, now that CEOs are making more than ever before, the corporate salary structure as a whole is adversely affected.  As our selectively transparent online avatars become more essential to our social lives, are we as a whole also adversely affected?

In The Evolution of PR, Content Marketing and Blogging, we cover:

- The ongoing changes in the world of PR
- The principles of content marketing for tech companies
- Important blogging strategies
- How to use press releases for more than just brand-building

Download

 

In The Evolution of PR, Content Marketing and Blogging, we cover:

- The ongoing changes in the world of PR
- The principles of content marketing for tech companies
- Important blogging strategies
- How to use press releases for more than just brand-building

Download

 

, , , , , | Blog

3 Comments


  1. Good post. I’m not even sure that social media has made us any more competitive/envious than we already were. I think it has just changed the nature of our competitive edge, since we now have to compete on so many levels in the digital space. Regardless, the benefits of over-promoting yourself via social media are not very tangible – in fact, if reality doesn’t live up to your self-advertising, you’re likely to make few new “real” friends (and Facebook friends don’t count).

    Doug Flora
    December 27, 2011

  2. The conclusion you reach at the end of the post–that our real-life interactions with each other may become adversely affected–brings up the interesting and all-too-familiar gap between social network and reality. Which is, the fact that we often refuse to recognize what happens on Facebook in real life. I’m reminded of when I was meeting a friend from high school again at my first day of a new job, that I hadn’t seen in years, and it just happened to be my birthday too. She came back from lunch later in the day and said jokingly, “hey, I was totally creeping your Facebook page at lunch…happy birthday!” She at least had the courage to admit that! I wouldn’t have, but why not? We all pretend that we don’t “creep,” but we do. We learn so much more about other people from social media than maybe we want to know, and the competition this article focused on is a side effect of this.

    Julie Donovan
    December 30, 2011

  3. Doug, Julie, thank you both for your comments. Doug: I agree. Social media might not necessarily make us more competitive. Instead, it gives us another public avenue to display our competitive/envious nature.

    Julie- your point is very interesting. Social media interactions and real-life interactions have not developed into a two-way street yet. We put information into Facebook, but we rarely take information out and use it in real-life, per your example. Everyone obviously wants their profiles to be viewed by others on Facebook, but would people really want to see who is viewing their profile and how many times they viewed it? How would that impact “real-life” relationships? Personally, I believe that if Facebook ever released information on who is viewing your profile (you know they have it, LinkedIn does it openly), it would be a swift, harsh suicide.

    FYI- Don Peppers posted a response to this blog on Fast Company, you can check it out here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1804470/the-envy-effect-part-two-how-friendly-competition-spurs-innovation

    Jason Fidler
    January 03, 2012
Leave a Reply
Name*
E-mail*
Website*
Message/Comments