Ayan Banik, Head of Brand Strategy at Cheil India, makes a strong argument against Facebook as a potent mass platform for exhibitionists.
“Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you”- Marilyn Monroe
I know for a fact that the very caption will make the millions and millions of Facebook fans want to kill me. But hey, before you guys start hatching a murder plan on Facebook, let me give my reasons. And, working in advertising, they seem to be pretty valid ones as well. But before I get into the main topic, let me digress a bit and talk about something called envy. Why??? You will soon find the connect yourself.
ENVY happens to be one of the seven cardinal sins as described by the Catholic Church. (Anyone remember the Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Spacey starrer Seven?)Aristotle described envy as the pain caused by the good fortune of others. While Niels Van Den Ven, in his highly informative treatise on envy - The Bright Side of a Deadly Sin: The Psychology of Envy, points out that of all the deadly sins (greed, lust, gluttony, wrath, pride, and sloth), envy is the only one that has zero element of fun, indulgence, or ecstasy to the sinner. Envy is an experience that is more frustrating to the envier than to the envied.
With that context setting, now coming back to my main mudda.
HL Mencken, the twentieth century journalist, satirist, social critic, cynic, and free thinker once commented that a man’s satisfaction with his salary depends on whether he makes more than his wife’s sister’s husband or not. And how does he get an idea of how much money his wife’s sister’s husband makes? Does he spy on him to get hold of his pay slip? Not really. There’s a much easier way to know that now – from the kind of pictures and posts that are flaunted on the Facebook page of his wife’s sister. No, he never pays her a Facebook visit. His own wife keeps him updated on that front. And trust me, if the posts and the pictures are about a recent trip to Ibiza, our man in question will actually not be having a very pleasant time at home.
And, that’s precisely the point I’m trying to make. By creating a potent mass platform for exhibitionists, Facebook is instrumental in promoting a lot of envy and a lot of unhappiness. At times, ignorance is actually bliss. Knowing how much fun your neighbour had in his last trip to France while you were sweating it out in the Delhi heat or what a big, fat promotion he has had recently while you had peanuts for starters, would cause more pain than pleasure to any normal, sane person that I know of (including myself).
The problem is that earlier, we never had access to so much of information about so many people existing in our social frame of reference. Through popular media like TV and gossip magazines, we would get our regular dose of the spoils and the splurges of the high and the mighty (movie stars, sports stars, industrialists, etc). But that information would never bother us as these people were never in the social frame of reference in the first place. So, we would never feel envious of them. Because envy is always in the context of a rough social equivalence where comparisons can be made. And when there is no comparison, there is no envy. “And therefore kings are not envied except by other kings” -Francis Bacon.
Now, with this argument in mind, if I keep myself at the focal point, then all the people who fall within my social frame of comparison (people with similar kind of socio-economic and educational background – school and college friends, people with whom I started out in advertising, my next door neighbour, etc.etc.) can be clubbed under two and only two groups:
a) Those who are doing better than me (better being qualified as materialistic acquisitions and indulgences)
b) Those who are doing worse than me.
So, it is obvious that I will go green or yellow or orange or red, depending upon whether it is only envy or envy being transformed into self-indignation and shame, every time I come to know of the acquisitions and activities of people in group 1. And, in a similar fashion, people who belong to group 2 will become envious or jealous knowing about how well I am leading my life. So, you might ask what’s the problem in that? At one end, you are envying someone while at the other end, you are getting envied. So it’s a fair deal. Not really.
Where it all gets very unfair is the very fact that being in advertising and making the kind of money that I make, I’m sure the number of people in group 1 would far exceed the number of people in group 2. As a result, if I am on Facebook (which I am not, thankfully), then the chances of me ending up envying someone would be much higher and with much more devastating effect than my glory moments of being the object of someone else’s envy.
Being on Facebook is like a double whammy – not only do my chances of committing a sin (Envy) go up exponentially, but also the chances of me feeling like an awfully miserable sod. And, that’s precisely the reason why my friends, I try to stay away from a gentleman by the name Mr. Mark Zuckerberg and his inventions. You may call me a loser, but I’m not the only one.
(The author is Head, Brand Strategy at Cheil India)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com