I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and he told me would be with the same company in 5 years. I said, to quote my favorite tv spot of the moment: “dude”… “no effin way”. I said, don’t you realize how fast things are moving? There is no way to really know what you will be doing in 5 years. Which made me think about…oddly enough, how fast things are moving. Generation C, user generated content, and the art of self promotion seem to be growing at an exponential pace leaving one to ask, “what could possibly be next at this rate?”
Generation T, for Transparent
Let’s face it. A lot of people, and I mean A LOT, are interested in gaining fame, fortune, notoriety and all the entrapments that come along with it, any which way they can get it. One of the fastest and most effective and most viral ways that this can be achieved is through the internet. Namely social media aka social networks. Awhile back, Rohit Bargava had written an interesting post entitled Using Blogs for Personal Marketing that essentially maps out how one can market oneself through social media. What Rohit failed to recognize back then, were the lengths and the extremes that people were willing to go to and utilize to extend their personal brand. Putting shame, morality, ethics and common decency aside, today’s generation of online users now try to leverage their “me” brand by any electronic means available. From creating videos for You Tube, and Flickr pages devoted to last night’s party, to developing first person-”if it bleeds then it leads”-content with a mobile device to creating inflammatory blogs. The amount of tools available for content creation today almost exceed the possibilities that exist in which they can be used. And that, is a scarry thought.
Coupled with these personal branding tools as we said, are the possibilities, and given todays culture of laying it all out there-on the bleeding edge, the only limitations to content creation seem to lie in the acceptable moral boundaries of the viewers of said content and the creators imagination. The FCC notwithstanding, what can be found in cyberspace can boggle the mind in regards to not only user generated FREE content but also paiud content. Amazingly enough, all of this content can be guaranteed of having some type of audience. Because of the notion that everyone wants to get paid, and everyone is willing to pay, would be auteurs are coming out of the woodwork with content that continues to push the envelope, try the patience, test the boundaries and skirt the law with their home grown submittals of what they think can fly online. . Where does it end? I have bad news for you, it has only just begun.
Generation E as in Exhibitionist
2 years ago in The Washington Post, Robert Samuelson had written that the Internet had unleashed the greatest outburst of mass exhibitionism in human history. This was 2 years ago! If This is when MySpace and Facebook had truly exploded, what are we to make of todays social networking state of affairs? Sure they were hot, but now, today, at this moment, what we have seen is the explosive growth of niche social networks and numerous other ways to put yourself out there for all the world to see, 24-7-365. As Samuelson states:
“People seem to crave popularity or celebrity more than they fear the loss of privacy. Some of this extroversion is crass self-promotion. The Internet is a cheap way to advertise ideas and projects. Anyone can post a video on YouTube, free; you can start a blog free (some companies don’t charge for “hosting” a site). “
If that was 2 years ago, then what we see now is the explosion of tools and sites and networks that help people exploit themselves to no end. In some instances this has come back to haunt some people who have tried to get jobs only to be denied because recruiters had accessed their MySpace page and saw suggestive photos or comments.
What we have seen and are seeing is a ship that is steering towards an even shorter attention span and demanding more of a punch line or a money shot. Now people expect to see a video that pushes their buttons quicker. Like wanting the porn without the acting. Gone will be the 22 minute sitcom. Gone will be the 9 part mini-series. Goodbye Roots, see ya later Rich Man Poor Man. It’s bad enough that ”24″ has the audacity to have a 2 part series. We have become a society that wants to see “rea stuff” real quick. Remember when reality tv shows like Survivor were the rage? Well now, what plays well in Peoria is real YouTube video consisting of a 3 minute clip of either someone being humiliated, hurt, or embarrased or of someone we idiolize being put into a compromising position (Britney anyone?) or who is out and out being spied upon.
Our fast food nation now wants it, no, demands it’s content the same way. But the flip side is now we can create content that a) showcases ourselves, b) shows someone being humiliated, c) someone getting their ass kicked, or d) showing off some bizarre backwoods talent, or even more, e) blatantly spying on someone, or even more extreme, having sex with someone else.And for what? All for the benefit of our perceived audeince and it’s insatiable thirst for this type of programming. Privacy has never meant less than it does today. But what this desire to show and share people our world has created, is the last piece to this new generation and that’s the Gen V public. The Voyeurs. The people that like to watch; and the portion of the public that has fueled the desire to put oneself out there.
Generation V as in Voyeur
Nic brisbourne offers up this blurb in his post titled Mediated Voyeurism in which one of the comments on just what social networking has become states:
“The most prevalent use of Facebook was as a social activity – students reported using Facebook with friends to view and discuss other people’s profiles. Essentially, Facebook appears to operate primarily as a tool for the facilitation of gossip.
“…the consumption of revealing images of and information about others’ apparently real and unguarded lives, often yet not always for purposes of entertainment but frequently at the expense of privacy and discourse, through the means of mass media and Internet.”
So essentially we have become and I beg anyone to truly refute this, a society of watchers. What would most people do if they could not talk about others? Part of the activity of social networks is the ability to access the content of others, to watch the content created by others, and to share that content with others. Thus not only in online social networks but also offline, we want to share that voyeuristic moment with others. The bottom line is again, we are a society that loves to watch, and now we have become a society that loves to watch content created by our peers. It’s raw, or so we think, it’s real, so we think, and it’s created by people that could be our next door neighbor and thus it has more value, more of a believe-ability factor than something created by Hollywood. It’s personal and some might agree that it’s private, which makes it that more “fun” to watch. Think about it, why do you think Americas Funniest Videos is so possible and successful? Because it captures video moments, for the most part, that are spontaneous and brace yourself, might be less than one minute. Amateur genertated content brought to you quickly and without makeup. And America absolutely has embraced it. Would be filmographers, would be actors on a stage for all the world to see, all thinking the same thing.”Maybe I’ll get discovered”!
The Mobile Social Generation
If you wanted to know where to look next for what might be on the horizon for sociological trends it would be no more than a foot away from you at all times. Thats right your cell phone. Within you hand held device is a social community. You just don’t know it yet. Mobile social communities are sites where mobile subscribers can communicate with groups of like-minded individuals. They mirror traditional online social networks. These sites are growing in importance as more users of online social sites discover similar communities that they can reach via their mobile phones. Recognizing that there is a growing demand from consumers to access communities, many major online social networking sites are moving to mobile as well.
Thus, the newly formed, quickly evolving mobile social networks will be the next big extension of user generated content. As soon as more sites become more mobile social friendly, look for more mobile friendly social content to be cranked out as well. Has it already happened? yes. To what degree? We have not even hit critical mass in regards to the type or amount of content that will eventually make it there. Furthermore, there are more and more mobile web sites that are coming onboard daily, that are creating compelling content and grabbing eyeballs. Lastly and you knew they would be mentioned, amateur mobile content creators will eventually dominate the space. Accoring to Businessweek: “Before long, everyone’s cell phone might make space for MySpace “. Thats not an if. Thats a when.