Facebook Redux

Written By: Gabriel  Berner


Facebook (FB) has revolutionized inter-personal relationships, and its worldwide appeal is built on its inherent ability to communicate an individual’s personality. Personality makes us who we are and influences most all aspects of our lives. Psychologists say that we have a basic need to be known by others and we take advantage of FB’s database/bulletin board capabilities to reach out and fulfill this need. We establish an online avatar to provide other viewers with an acceptable image of ourselves (reasonably accurate with rounded edges) and join a vast global network.


Today, FB used as a marketing vehicle (it now carries advertising), is the leading driver of social/sales referrals to sites across the web. To say FB has been adopted by the world (over one billion users) as a seemingly useful, meaningful and efficient communication vehicle is an understatement. Rather than just being used to get in touch with others it has become a vehicle to broadcast oneself, and works as a stimulant for people to communicate. As a result, it is often filled with low priority, banal information that one would not normally bother to communicate to others. At the same time, because FB presence is so ubiquitous, users open themselves up to the world and, therefore, to anyone wishing to peruse others’ personal pages.


FB is expected to be the one companion East Ender’s will not do without whether summering, as a       weekender or visitor. Mobile devices (phones, pads, laptops, etc.) beach-proofed and with extended batteries will be in evidence on the North and South forks sending signals from users to adjacent cell towers, some perhaps with pine tree fakery. In return, vacationers and visitors will be getting signals carrying a variety of personal messages and advertising when logged onto FB or other digital media. Marketing science will be in evidence as East End advertisers target and proclaim their interest in feeding your body and soul, announce ‘not to be missed events’ and remind you that participation in their humanitarian cause is a mitzvah.


What is the source of FB’s appeal and how does it sustain itself? First, FB is not a new idea, but an extension of the popular High School Yearbook (or College) into a digital format where the electronic page is now able to be endlessly and continually updated with unlimited personal information and pictures. Further, the personal information posted is also open to comments and responses by any reader. Importantly, having added advertising to FB monetizes it and makes it a valuable content marketing tool to engage prospective customers through friends making ‘personalized referrals’.


One questions however, why FB as one brand defines the social media category. shareholic.com, for example, reports that in the fourth quarter of 2014, 34% of all sales referrals measured came from the eight most popular social media vehicles; with 25% points of the 34% from FB. The Digitari believe these data indicate the importance of the category as a valuable growing resource for Internet marketers for 2015, but in reality they are speaking primarily of FB.


It is not likely that FB’s overall momentum will slow in 2015 nor will it for the summer East End market segment. Traditional forms of advertising expenditures are expected to be matched and exceeded by FB and other digital media among the East End audience. Imagine the billions of digital signals and images bouncing from Montauk to west of the canal and enveloping the hordes of weekend tourists and vacationers. The digital signals will reach the crowds whether they are found strolling the streets in various villages, claiming a piece of the beach or lunching at a new eatery instead of Lunch. Whatever the person’s activity or East End location they’ll never be “alone” because their mobile device will enable them to connect to most everyone the world over via FB. Awesome say some, outrageous say others.


Why do some people think FB’s connectivity is outrageous? Maybe because some feel it is a means of electronic gossiping and rumor spreading. More to the crux of the matter, others note that it plays on our basic needs ‘to be known’ and at the same time breeches our psychological defense mechanisms. FB opens us up to a variety of situations that have both pleasant outcomes, as well as, unexpected ones that potentially are physically or emotionally threatening.


Consider first, the counter intuitive behavior noted among social media users.  On one hand they say that web PRIVACY is an important issue (an estimated 75%), but nevertheless freely discuss their feelings and convey personal information. Specifically, people are very reluctant, if at all willing, to provide personal information to surveys and the like. But, at the same time and contrary to this privacy belief, people join FB and other social media and have no qualms about “spilling their guts” about personal behavior and feelings on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. However, social media is a two way street, and does one really care where friends may be at any given moment or what activity they’re engaged in? Sharing this type of personal minutia is more ascribable to adolescent behavior and could represent a significant segment of the FB posts.


Then there is the total dissonance between privacy and sharing too much information. This is   explainable by the idea that in one instance people are ASKED to give personal data, with no apparent quid pro quo, while in the other case they are having a “conversation” with friends and unwittingly (or knowingly) broadcast that information to the WORLD. The quid pro quo in the latter instance can be attributed to friends appreciating what has been said to them and then providing their own input as response. There is also a ‘have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too’ mind-set, where the individual wants the broadcast privileges without the downside of others being made aware of things that should remain hidden. The trade-off between the need for security and the needs of self-esteem and status (i.e., “I’m worthy of “being out there”) may often tip against security; this being relatable to a freeing of invulnerability the individual possesses (i.e., “these things happen to others, not me”).


Furthermore, there is an ultimate “price” one pays for this social interaction outside of that implied by watching ads. Ironically, over time an expected negative reaction to revealing “too much” about one’s personal life and feelings is apt to occur; this concern brought on by the fear that anyone who wants to look, can. Malicious predators and those conducting cyber-attacks need look no further than FB and other social media to find handy catalogs of pictures and text from which to select their next victims.


The ease of maliciousness today along with anonymity brings out the worst in some people. Sharing personal information and conversation with friends and acquaintances via text or email is much less a potential invasion of privacy. Are the predator and hacker dangers real? Single instances, when they occur are not newsworthy, but when the problems accumulate as they did on Craig’s List, a semi-social media, and threaten business they become headlines. LinkedIn too, as it builds its business user base, continues to lack proper policing and accepts all who claim credentials.


FB’s one billion plus world-wide membership suggests that all of the above can and has already happened to some degree. People alerted to the potential risks associated with social media in the long run will reduce the frequency of conversation and the extent of personalized content. This, taken together with a user’s diminished interest in spending time on FB (fad effect downside) is expected to force the current frenzy of advertising to abate and plateau at lower levels. Were this punditry to take place, the FB sorcerers and apprentices will be found hard at work re-designing the Emperor’s clothes.


East Enders are known to be a hardy lot and will take the potential hazards of being a FaceBooker in stride as they have others. Those who summer at or just visit the East End already pay the price when: looking for parking, booking/waiting for tables at popular eateries, avoiding route 27 traffic jams and radar traps, lines for movie tickets to blockbusters, staking-out beach space for paraphernalia, finding ATM’s with 50’s or 100’s, catching the sunset at Bostwick’s and latching onto a current copy of Dan’s Papers.