About a month ago, an office mate shared an interesting article with me – Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy. If you have the time, I suggest checking it out. If you don’t, all that really matters to this discussion is that one of the reasons Generation Y Yuppies are unhappy is because of a social media phenomenon that is changing the online landscape called Facebook Image Crafting. Simply stated, image crafting is when you try to control the way that others perceive you.
We do it all the time in real life too: when we choose how to do our hair, what clothes to wear, which words to use, which car to drive… the list goes on. But on Facebook and other social networks, it’s easier to put up a facade: you can have even more control over the situation by carefully planning your words and choosing which photos are displayed vs. hidden (and not to be forgotten: Photoshop). All of this leads the Gen Y Yuppies to cry in despair because they believe that their peers are living glorious lives, all while they’re just sitting around browsing Facebook and paling in comparison. Seeing only the highlights of your friends’ lives makes you feel like they’re all better off than you are, which is a hard (and not entirely correct) pill to swallow. A recent study showed that Facebook usage is inversely related to one’s satisfaction with life, so perhaps we’re on to something. Is it time to take a step back from all of this reputation management?
Whisper is a social media app that was launched in the spring of 2012, with the premise that it’s “about expressing your true self within a community of honesty & acceptance”. Users don’t have a profile in the traditional sense (no profile pics, no real names, no bios), just a location and a username. Posts are made by choosing a photo and writing text that overlays it – text which is often a secret. It’s like PostSecret 2.0 – anonymity lets people be more free, honest, and open with what they share, and just like PostSecret, some of the confessions are pretty heavy. Others, not so much:
Whether or not you think the idea is hokey, investors think it has legs. Just last month, they closed $21 million in Series B funding lead by Sequoia Capital and carrying a valuation around the $75 million mark. Jeremy Liew (one of their Series A investors) has also invested in Snapchat: an app that is in the same vein of ‘keeping things private’. He said in an interview that he thinks “this pop culture movement where people feeling the pressure to maintain their image is peaking”.
So is this a sign that social media is shifting?
What we’re seeing here is further evidence of social media fragmentation. Much like the core TV channels, radio stations, and news publications had to deal with smaller special interest programming, the big social media networks are dealing with niche players. Following the likes of the media conglomerates, Facebook is responding to these threats through acquisition (Instagram in April 2012). News Corp and Viacom still have their place in the media game, and Facebook will continue to play a big part in the social media game. So the playing field is certainly shifting, and it will continue to. How it shifts is based on what we – the users – want to get out of it. And if that’s more privacy and honesty? Well that certainly will bode well for Whisper.