Photo Credit : Mashable.com
By Yonatan Gordon
In our previous article we the communal enjoyment or naches of products. In this entry, we are going to shift from physical goods to the virtual arena of social media. As we will see, it’s much harder (although still quite possible) to flip a product when a billion people rely on it. But more than a new version of the iPad replacing the old, the move from Facebook to anything else involves much more than a selection between two items on the shelf.
Before we delve deeper, we should first note that we will be referencing “The age of the brag is over: why Facebook might be losing teens” recently published on TheVerge.com.
IS FACEBOOK STILL COOL?
This is the question asked of teens (the social trendsetters or Innovators) in the article. The question of “cool” relates most closely to the Innovator stage of our Product Flip Cycle. As mentioned there, “The Innovators are also the most optimistic consumer. They have the highest level of belief in the ability to acquire concepts (e.g. to one day have portable knowledge even greater than an iPad).”
When a product is not seen as “cool” anymore, this means that some dissonance has set in. Active users, starting with the Innovators, don’t have as high a belief that this product will deliver what they had originally hoped for. What is the underlying concept, or point of attraction, behind Facebook? As mentioned in one of our first articles on Community of Readers, “Facebook: How to Lead with the Eyes”: “Why is that we are motivated to Friend dozens or perhaps hundreds of people on social media forums such as Facebook? Perhaps we are seeking to awaken our spark of leadership potential within. Each post we see from our Friends is an opportunity to think positively about that person. Is there anyway I can help them today? Is there something that they need?”
As mentioned in TheVerge.com article, the coolness factor started wearing off when posts became seen as bragging or self-promotion. Instead of fostering communal betterment and sharing, increasingly many posts now seem superficial. This is why, as the article goes on to explain, that teens have sought more private means to interact with close friends. Instead of sharing their life with hundreds, fostering bonds with an inner circle of close friends and family has become become paramount.
WHAT DOES TUMBLR HAVE OVER FACEBOOK?
The article goes on to highlight two possible advantages that Tumblr has over Facebook: 1) More uniform privacy settings and, 2) The ability to have multiple accounts. The privacy issue we just discussed. People are searching for meaningful conversations, so they are opting for more private means to share their updates. But how does having two or more accounts add to its coolness? Let’s start by quoting that section of the article:
“Part of Tumblr’s success is no doubt due to that fact that it’s a place where you can cultivate two or more identities, whereas on Facebook you’re stuck with just one: the real you. “It’s a site where you can find people that are like you and you can feel less alone,” Wisniewski said. Tumblr’s simple and binary privacy controls may have also contributed to its success. “As Facebook has become a real-life social network infested with parents, co-workers, ex-friends, and people you barely know,” Rifkin writes, “Tumblr has become the place where young people express themselves.”
We concluded our previous article with the line that “No longer are products to be found as something ‘by themselves’ on the shelf, but the world of commerce itself then ventures forward into something less and less tangible.” Now we can elaborate on this a bit more.
What brings the idealist comfort or naches? What encourages him to put his ideas into commercial form? The hope that the idea won’t be obfuscated by the materiality of the product. While the idea may be pristine, its true “clean” nature will become readily apparent if it survived the test of invention.
Implicit in this idea though is something more profound. That even though I may be holding onto the product, my hands are still clean; meaning that I am never led into the trap of perceiving this product as some finished entity. The logical consequence is then, at least in some subtle way, the product must always be updating. For if this were not so, at least at some point, the inventor or owner holding the product would be sullying his hands with something material.
In order to understand what it means to have two or more public entities, let’s now enter into the world of superheroes.
WHO IS COOLER: CLARK KENT OR SUPERMAN?
While Clark Kent doesn’t get to show off that cool “S” on his outfit, he does have something else over the Man of Steel: He is the real one. He’s the one that Facebook would allow as a user.
Within ourselves, “superman” is like the superimposed product or self-image that we create of ourselves. The test of course is to stay true to who we are, the Clark Kent, in order to save the world using our true identity.
photo credit: flickr.com
“[Clark Kent] sees his job as a journalist as an extension of his Superman responsibilities—bringing truth to the forefront and fighting for the little guy. He believes that everybody has the right to know what is going on in the world, regardless of who is involved.” – Wikipedia
Seemingly, it would have been preferable if Clark Kent could have stopped Lex Luthor from his nuclear missile plot (an event depicted in the first Superman movie) by his work at the Daily Planet. By calling the public’s attention to the risk, and having Lex sentenced long before the event, perhaps he could have averted the situation by more natural means. The “superman” reaction then is a last resort. When our real identity didn’t cut it, we need to fly up there and redirect the missile into the Sun in order to save the planet (or at least California in this case).
A person doesn’t need to look very far to see the parallels in our present day. The risk of doing the miraculous is that others may very well turn us into action figures. That’s why we need a secret identity. Not because Clark Kent couldn’t have flown up himself to redirect the missile, but because he wanted to live a normal life afterwards as a real person instead of a product.
On the surface, this then is why Tumblr is preferable. It always us to boldly pursue our interests and secret talents, without revealing them to the world. What will happen if my parents find out that I am a world class Chess champion? Will they make me travel to tournaments around the world? Talented and gifted people the world over would rather stay real people, and keep their “superhero” identities a secret. This is what Tumblr affords us that apparently Facebook does not.
But this only compounds the paradox presented in the last article! The result of these thoughts then is not only does the inventor need to fend off his idea from becoming a product, but he also needs to fend off the public accolades lest he also become a product!
As we say in yiddish, “oy va voy!”
What then is the answer to our newly compounded paradox? The inventor needs to learn how to tumble. The angels of the World of Action in Kabbalah (our present world) are called Igulim (lit. “wheels”). This is because they move forward by rolling like a wheel. We can also emulate this movement, it’s called tumbling.
In order to make progress in this world, we need to stop running and start learning from the angels that inhabit this world. While running, our eyes are always on the goal ahead. But that doesn’t cut it anymore. In order to truly move forward, people today need to learn to close their eyes, and let go of their preconceived notions of reality. Kabbalah teaches that before any moment of growth, there first needs to be a moment of nothingness that precedes it. The point at which we admit that we don’t really know how it will all turn out, but I have trust and faith in God that he will direct me to the good and proper outcome.
We call this the “Modim Meditation” (lit. the meditation where we continuously acknowledge or give thanks) from the bow that we perform during the silent Amidah (lit. standing) prayer. The first words there are “We thankfully acknowledge that You are the Lord our God and God of our fathers forever.” *
Each tumble starts with a lowering of the head, which is our opportunity to acknowledge God for all the kindness that He has performed for us. Even when not saying the Amidah prayer, this is something we can have in mind throughout the day.
SOLVING THE PARADOX
This answer then solves our compounded paradox of the idealist. Not only does can the Modim Meditation keep products in a perpetually updating state, it can also keep the inventor from becoming a product himself. Once a person is connected with his source, he can then tumble forward and share his experiences with others throughout the day using his real identity.
Whereas the underlying concepts of Facebook have to do with relating positively to others, and uncovering leadership potential, Tumblr reminds us to show those spontaneous moments and thoughts that we are most thankful for. If Tumblr is perceived as cooler than Facebook, then there are two possible reasons why: 1) Either people are finding it difficult to share uplifting, empowering things on Facebook, or 2) People find it easier to post something they are thankful for on Tumblr even while in mid-tumble.
This also explains how Clark Kent can do “superman” like feats even using his real identity.
Even if the whole world views you as an action figure, you should view yourself as a humble reporter for the Daily Bugle. So who is the real “superman”? Maybe it was Christopher Reeve, the actor from the first Superman movie mentioned above, who valiantly lobbied for the benefit others after sustaining a spinal-cord injury.
This is why Tumblr is not necessarily the perfect “flip” or replacement for Facebook. There is nothing inherently limited about forcing users to only use their true identity. The advantage that Facebook does have though is that it reminds people to stay people. Not to fall into the trap of viewing themselves as the product of their own inventions (i.e. the real identity, and the secret identity).
So what can flip the giant? Presumably this would be something that better enables people to become leaders, and interact with groups or communities of people. The best example of this would seem a global classroom or broadscale e-learning environment. Instead of encouraging people to share everything that comes to mind, each teacher would be directing his or her students to put forth worthwhile contributions to the class discussion. While several companies and individuals are battling in this “edu-space” right now, the one who comes out the winner will likely also be the one to flip Facebook.
Can Facebook flip themselves? This is still a possibility. As mentioned in the article:
“’About 40 percent of everyday speech is devoted to telling others about what we feel or think,” reported the Wall Street Journal back in May, and online, that figure could be much larger. While Facebook amplified our ability to share thoughts with others, it also takes a hit when people realize the amount they’re sharing through observing others.”
The flip to Facebook 2.0 will only occur if Facebook transitions these “observing others” thoughts, into “observing the teacher in the classroom” contributions. When users start listening to the teacher give over the lesson, then respond back to the teacher with worthwhile feedback.
* The wording of this prayer seems to suggest that this meditation is more a “rolling” back in time rather than forward (like in the expression “rolling back time” or a clock). This could also be seen a s continuously rolling back a product back to its original idea or source (like the Jewish people can roll back to Abraham or to the God of Abraham). This also implies that while a person or product is rolling back, the intention is to apply source concepts in new and innovative ways. This is the deeper reason why a product can be continuously updating, while staying perfectly true to the original thought behind it. In Jewish thought, this is explained as the difference between the original Torah that was given at Mt. Sinai, and the “new” Torah that will be given in the Messianic era. This latter Torah is the same as the original, but is still considered “new” in lieu of the new teachings that come out of it.
For those interested in more about what this global classroom may look like, please read our five part Apple Turnaround Series (specifically Part 4, “Developing the ‘Next Big Thing’ in Products” and Part 5, “Paving the Way Forward”).
In Part 4 we hope to discuss in more detail the topic of revealing your secret identity.