We’re not connecting, we’re comparing

Nobody likes feeling lonely. There’s not a single soul in the history of the world that enjoyed complete solace, forever and always.

We’re social creatures and storytellers held together by our connections with lovers, friends, family, colleagues, and communities. And in 2018, it’s not just our regular crowd we rely on in times of loneliness… we have of course invented a wonderful thing called the internet.

We’re all guilty of taking a 140-character flight, or having a passive scroll through someone’s life to escape loneliness. You see loners at it everyday and everywhere – on the bus, at the hairdressers, the airport, on the street. The more you notice it, the freakier it gets. FFS, if aliens landed in Edinburgh, they’d think our phones were a vital part of our bodily function.

The thing is, unsurprisingly, the internet isn’t really curing our insatiable desire to feel connected. It’s actually having the opposite effect. You only need to take a look at the rocketing loneliness rates and rising suicide stats to get a reality check.

Because while we’re browsing through perfectly lit-selfies, liking fake-friends’ group pics, and swiping past airbrushed butt cracks: we’re not connecting, we’re comparing. We’re not feeling less lonely by going online – we’re feeling more isolated.

But what does all this mean for us? And us as marketers and creatives?

As a cultural response we’re starting to see slight anger and discontent. Influencers are going offline, millennials are limiting their phone use, and Scottish islands are beginning to market themselves as ‘digital detox destinations’.

So now, interestingly REALNESS is becoming a cultural tension. And herein lies a nice opportunity for marketers, brands, and creative types.

The door is now open for us to address the damage we’ve done as an industry. To atone for putting out pixel perfect portraits, and creating a fantasy Shangri-la-la-land where you can consume your way to happiness.

The best brands will now step into the vacuum created by the internet. They’ll make people feel like they belong to something real. And they’ll allow their community of customers to contribute to their brand, and shape the way they do things.

In other words, they’ll create community where there’s isolation.

Onto some examples so you can get a better idea of what I’m going on about. Take Glossier. They call themselves a ‘people powered beauty ecosystem’. But what they offer are affordable products, shaped by a real community of un-photoshopped, unfiltered women.

Then there’s Nike with all their brilliance. They were the brand that pretty much invented ‘going for a run’, and are now using their brand as a platform to unite an entire community of people who feel lost and disenchanted by our disturbing political landscape. (The rest of them can go burn their fucking shoes for all I care.)

And Patagonia. What a fabulously giving brand – building rainforests and communities across the globe.

All these guys – whether they mean to or not – are tapping into real communities and absolutely owning it.

So to wrap this up, I guess the real brief here is to create a sense of belonging. And to create significant ideas that impact people’s real lives.

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