Unscrupulous marketers looking for ways to exploit human frailty for profit may find a recent Stanford study of interest.
As reported by Slate.com last week, the study, entitled, “Misery Has More Company Than People Think,” published in the January issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (I know I never miss an issue), our human tendency to assume that others are happier than we are is made worse by social media, resulting in higher anxiety and even depression.
The study, led by one-time Stanford Ph.D. candidate Alex Jordan, observed:
“By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles’ heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.”
Essentially, we’re all BSing each other through our own narcissism, and in the process making ourselves less happy than ever. How messed up is that?
What really scares me, though, is that marketers who typically prey upon human insecurity to sell stuff have probably figured out how to leverage the “happiness” of others to generate greater sales and profits.
Diet plans, cosmetics companies, fashion clothiers, etc. could make a comfortable living exploiting consumers’ anxiety for profit.
The technique is not that different than the way many companies have marketed through the mass media over the years, but it’s probably a lot more effective—especially when your “happy” friend “likes” the way she was able to drop 15 pounds thanks to Company X.