The island of “me”: Digital narcissism, personalization, and ego

I’m intrigued by a pet observation that’s been swirling and coalescing in my little head lately: namely, the internet – an instant platform for all our own little opinions and soapboxes – has made us all think we’re important. Way too important, actually. The digital world has given us our proverbial “15 minutes of fame” – except, when everyone have a loud opinion, perversely none count, and the soapbox isn’t 15 minutes, but forever.

It used to be that you knew your relative importance in the world – possibly you shared your opinion with friends, family, some co-workers (probably not), you might have been a big fish in your own teeny weeny pond, and indeed, some managed to develop extraordinary egos just on that alone. But on the whole there was a small audience and you knew you weren’t all that important. For better or worse, people believed in authority and respected it.

But now, with a built in “audience” (x number of facebook/twitter “friends”!) you start to believe in your own importance. You imagine that your audience gives a rat’s patooty about what you think, and all of a sudden that ego that your parents worked so hard to quelch, train, and curb, has been given a venue to run wild.

People are commenting on every article being published; they have to share their opinions, because in their mind, it’s important that other people hear them. They are sharing their music lists, their favorite entertainment sources, their political advice – all of their proverbial intellectual DNA. Somehow, people are starting to believe that their <fill in the blank> is important. Drinking their own Kool-Aid.

The result of all this can be seen with the furor over the Wikileaks scandal. The point is not whether you agree this is a good thing or not, but what’s interesting to me is that we’ve moved as a society to a point where everyone feels they have a “right” to know everything. Which is a direct result of the move towards a seemingly egalitarian society, because everyone has a say (dammit!) and an audience, inflating their sense of importance.

Just another example of how the digital world is impacting on our “real” society and human psychology. Entitled might be the best word of all.

What’s going to happen as we increasingly all feel so important? => Combined with increasing personalization, and how spoiled we are getting from getting everything delivered immediately, I’m predicting a world of individual narcissists all operating on their own little self regulated “islands”. Which raises all sorts of interesting thought “vectors”…mostly around individual serving sized food right now (I’m hungry).

But also around the challenges brands and products (two different things) will have in reaching people, and influencing them; we are truly moving from a “push” marketing model to an engagement one, and the companies that don’t understand how to be invited and embed themselves in consumers’ lives will fail. Seamless operating integration between various technologies (hardware, connectivity, content) will be imperative to ensure that consumers keep you permanently in their lives. And then partnering with synergistic content, to deliver “package” experiences to consumers receptive to your product/service. I definitely think the era of the stand alone brand is ending.

But ironically, all this partnering and invisible web weaving will reduce your actual choices. Which is why I previously said “seemingly” egalitarian. But you won’t know it, because you’ll be feeling very important.

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One Response to The island of “me”: Digital narcissism, personalization, and ego

  1. Tony S says:

    I like a recent take on Warhol’s “15 minutes” quote, which is “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 people”

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