There are two big shifts happening in culture as we transition to digital – the move from individualism to being viewed as an individual, marketable data point, and the move to becoming a collaborative society.
Beyond Tocqueville’s Telescope: The Personalized Brand and the Branded Self, in the Fall 2011 issue of Hedgehog Review (article not available online) got me to thinking about another dynamic occurring as people establish their online identities. Marketing has effectively taken over the data behind the scenes in Social Media with every permission and access given. Now it is moving to the front and center of the stage as people begin branding themselves – using all the techniques of marketing to push and shape their digital identities for maximum exposure and connectivity, higher Klout scores, and improved social reputation.
The authors, Arlie Hochschild and Sarah B. Garrett, point out this reflects a major shift in our culture – from a society that prizes individualism to one that prizes marketing of the individual. Media has been utilized to bombard us with advertising. It used to be a 20th century survival skill to be able to ignore TV and radio ads – you could change the channel, turn down the volume or just shut it off. In the 21st century, marketing permeates everything. As more of our attention shifts to screens, it is far more difficult to turn off. We are tracked every time we open a page, grant a permission to a new app, click on a link. It is pervasive in the shift to digital. The first rule of marketing is “own the data”, and we give ours away all day long.
Now the shift is subtly moving to the other side of the equation. It is no longer just marketing targeting each one of us, we are beginning to treat our identities as simply one more piece of data to be marketed. Personal branding is the new big thing – just google it. Vanity sites, profiles, avatars and icons, posts, tweets, shares, +1′s, favorites, likes, etc. all serve to promote and define our identities. Klout, PeerIndex, and new metrics serve to measure how you are doing compared to other folks, areas of influence, trust and authority indexes; of course YOU are just a data point. You might as well be a box of soap, and the sooner you see yourself as such, the sooner your scores will increase.
It is what it is. I’m not sounding the alarm, only pointing out what we are up against as we homestead on the digital frontier. We need to take care as we define and represent ourselves. As human beings we are marked by growth and the multiple facets of our personalities and how we wish to present and represent them – we change and evolve, we are more than a new and improved box of soap to be re-branded or marketed.
Along side all of this another big shift is occurring all over the world -we are becoming collaborators. It is no longer knowledge that is king and all the “me against them” thinking that goes with it. It is who you know, your networks, who you collaborate with – and how you are known among them. It is one big US with a shift of consciousness to follow.
Be more than a box of soap!