Posts tagged ‘Instagram’

June 28, 2015

#96) For whom the Belle tolls

Belle Gibson may have a smooth complexion, but she is definitely the Scarface of the millennial generation. The Australian lifestyle blogger and social media magnate has achieved a meteoric rise and fall in the time that most of us 40-somethings take to figure out how to get our five CD changer to play the disc we want. Since launching her app, “The Whole Pantry” in 2013, Gibson has taken millions across the globe on a ride, in the process making Jenny McCarthy look like an old woman wobbling to the park to feed the ducks.

The story is a reboot of Scarface, perfectly detailed for today. An attractive young woman is stricken with multiple devastating cancers. Failed by the medical establishment, she instead cures herself with diet and exercise, shares her experiences and becomes a social media hero overnight. A substantial portion of the millions in sales from “The Whole Pantry” app and its companion cookbook go to charity. The app is even slated to be bundled on the new Apple Watch. Another savvy millennial makes good.

Only problem: none of it is real.

Perhaps Gibson should have heeded Mark Twain’s advice that “If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Inconsistencies in her various interviews, blog entries and Instagram posts started raising eyebrows. Doubt spread among her loyal legions like, pardon the simile, cancers. Not only Gibson’s diagnoses but also her date of birth have been called into question. Many of the charities to which she reportedly donated have claimed not to have seen a dime. Gibson now faces the possibility of jail time for fraud and even worse, the wrath of social media.

Why does any of this matter? Quite possibly it doesn’t, but it’s still interesting. In a broad sense, it speaks to the hidden dangers of early success and how we all need heroes but when they get too big for their britches, we want to strike them down. Specifically it shows how the internet, social media in particular, speeds up the process of celebrity rises and falls. It proves how cyberspace can make someone who we haven’t met in person sometimes seem more real, engaging and exciting than the people whom we actually know in the flesh. It’s a cautionary tale for those who use social media as a business tool, also proving just how powerful the lure of online recognition can be. For the consumer, whether it’s time or money that they invest, it’s a reminder that not everything on the internet is true.

I’m not psychic but I predict the story of Belle Gibson won’t last too long. We will move onto something new and her story will ultimately be a mere footnote, along with those of Richard Heene, James Frey and Milli Vanilli. Still, her 15 minutes of fame did give us some whole food for thought. Tony Montana ain’t got nothin’ on her.

March 1, 2015

#90) Gall bladders and crazy relatives (or why likes are the new calories)

What do the removal of my wife’s gall bladder and Facebook comments by an odd cousin have to do with each other?

I’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s start with a simpler question. What do high calorie foods and social media recognition have in common? We’re hard-wired to crave both.

According to one theory, our predisposition to high calorie foods is left over from our caveman days when we didn’t know when our next meal would be. Seems like a fair enough explanation to me; it makes me feel less guilty about putting away Big Carls left and right. I also believe that props from our followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and rest feed our appetite for recognition which, like our hunger for calories, is instilled in us early on. Popularity contests are nothing new of course, but they happen more quickly and intensely now than ever before, for worse as well as better (just ask Justine Sacco).

My dad’s cousin, in her late 70s, is a fairly avid Facebook user and while she’s no “Crazy Jewish Mom” she’s gotten off a few beauties in her time. When my wife jokingly used the word “pendejos” in in the context of sharing a “Bubala, please!” video, Crazy Jewish Cousin fired back with, “I don’t think you understand how offensive that term is.” When I posted pictures of my new dog, Meecham: “Bassets do NOT perk their ears up. He needs to be told.” (Duh, he’s not purebred–what do you think #bassetmix means?”) Recently she wanted to know, “I sure hope Instagram pays you for all the showings of your pictures that they use to advertise their product. What does Instagram have that just snapping a photo and posting it doesn’t have?”

The last part of that statement notwithstanding (I don’t feel like getting into an Instagram vs. Facebook debate just now) she did happen on an interesting point, if unknowingly. If Facebook doesn’t pay its users and in fact continues to alienate them while sites such as Bubblews and Bitlanders do pay users for their content, why don’t people just flock to the latter? Well, in the case of Bubblews they did, for a while. As of this writing, Bubblews holds an Alexa ranking of 4,946th globally: not bad, but the site ranked in the top 2,000 globally toward the end of last year, suggesting that it hasn’t gained market share. Bitlanders made a brief appearance in the global top 20,000 before dropping earlier this year; TSU had a brief flare last October. Throughout all of the above events, Facebook has retained its #2 ranking, behind only Google. According to Alexa data, the average time spent on Facebook daily is about the same as TSU, Bubblews and Bitlander put together.

Why? If you are reading this, odds are Facebook has outlived its usefulness to you. Yeah, some of you perhaps use it to promote or follow local businesses, bands, restaurants and communities, but by this point most of us have already reconnected with all of the long lost friends that we’re going to reconnect with. Why do we still log on? To get into political arguments? Parenting debates? No, to get likes, comments and recognition. Like calories, we’re addicted to them. Pinterest, Instagram and especially Facebook provide us with feedback that the little guys just can’t match.

Which brings me to the gall bladder. The gall bladder is left over from our caveman days, a storage chamber for us to stock up on calories back when our problem was too few, not too many. According to a recent blog post by Jenny McCarthy, “The gall bladder is vulnerable to stones, inflammation and polyps. For some individuals, it’s not only obsolete, it’s also a liability.” In other words, it’s kind of like Facebook.

Now, I have nothing against gall bladders, Facebook or calories. It’s just interesting to consider parallels between our relationships with social media and food. No one says, “I wish I spent more time arguing politics on Facebook.” Just as one has to weigh the tastiness of an item to its caloric impact, it might not be a bad idea for us to consider just how important those “likes” really are.