The Social Media Marketplace - Day 73

(Credits - iStock)

The Social Media Bazaar
A lot is going on around us, in the world, and a lot of that is reaching us through media, specifically the Internet and social media in particular. I am like many of us out there being constantly bombarded with information, content, ads, news, products, podcasts, videos, and God knows what else. The social media space and the web, in general, is a terrific marketplace, which uses a lot of ways to capture our attention.

When I imagine the marketplace of old or even the current physical markets like my favorite liberty bazaar in Lahore, I see similar tactics to gain your attention there too. But the difference is, that their marketing is much less effective, less invasive, and not ever-present. Even if you argued against the first two things, you cannot argue against the third. That's it. No one visits the social media marketplace consciously thinking that they're about to enter a market. Applications that open at the touch of a finger, promising a world of entertainment, news, and excitement, are not usually seen as a visit to the bazaar, are they? Yet, this couldn't be more true.

Businesses Need Social Media
Businesses today rely on social media to advertise, market, and make their presence known to their potential and regular customers. Very few businesses are purely physical now as the time necessitates that they come online, on various mediums, that only seems to keep growing (think: development of new markets, new malls, and stores in the physical world). Businesses that do not show their presence on the frequently visited social media sites find themselves isolated and limited in their reach, resorting to word of mouth or ads in the newspapers/magazines, which greatly reduces their market reach. Simply put, the times have changed and we now live in an age where we have immense reach and access to things that are happening all around the world, something that was a luxury only a while ago.

Now, you can reach people in every corner of the world that has access to the Internet, and this is no small victory. Previously, as a business, you would have had to rely on a small local market where you could physically display your products, and on news ads and word of mouth for marketing. Today, while these methods of marketing still hold relevance, the means to market and reach have grown immensely. To what degree, we don't even know.

A Marketplace at our Fingertips
There is a global marketplace at our fingertips, that offers both the consumer great access and the entrepreneur great reach. Marketing has undergone a significant explosion due to competition at a new global level, versus the previous model of local marketing. As a result, customers are being exposed to, in my opinion, an overload of marketing. This has led to too many choices, which leads to poor decision making, and an overall scrambling of our focus and attention. Unfortunately, this is happening constantly. From the moment we open up our social media, we are exposed to the world of feed. A feed is much like seeing items or shops in real malls, but with virtually no limit to the number of choices we have. Since the language of what we see on the Internet is 'information', this phenomenon is leading to an information overload.

The Analogy of a Shopping Mall
Imagine if you stepped into a shopping mall, and you saw some beautiful shops on the first floor so naturally, you started to peruse them. Then you kept walking and saw more shops, and then in the distance you some more enchanting shops so you kept going forward. You kept going further in because it was too alluring and since you couldn't see the end of the shops, your mind couldn't draw its own limit to make you physically stop. However, your body might show signs of fatigue, for example, your legs may start to get very tired, signaling to you that you need to stop wandering and leave. But when it comes to perusing or browsing through social media feeds, that natural limit seems to not exist.

What could it be, your eyes or fingers getting tired? Or the need to go to the bathroom or to eat? Well, sure, your eyes and fingers may get tired but most of us have desensitized ourselves to those needs because on the surface level, spending massive amounts of time scrolling doesn't seem to physically cause any problems. As for a bathroom or food break, well, this marketplace is so mobile that you can take it with you while you eat, pee, dress, shower, etc. I'm not a hater here, but just a curious consumer myself. If I stayed all day every day in the mall, I would get sick of it. I know that I like going there when I have a real purpose to go like to shop, hang out with friends, watch a movie, eat a meal, or even chill out on my own, so I'd set that intention, go there with that in mind, and enjoy myself.

But ask me to do that every day, in between breaks at work, during my walk, during my meals, at the expense of ignoring my friends to go there, ignoring my own needs to go there, and eventually giving up on all of my agency so that I must visit this marketplace every day, I'd say you're crazy to ask me to do such a thing, and yet, isn't that exactly what we're doing?

Visit the Market With an Intention & Precaution
Essentially, there is no problem in visiting a market when you have a purpose, an intention, and a time frame to do so, but without any of these, a market can prove to be a tiring place where every other salesperson is trying to sell you something, which can be very distracting. But the thing is, all of these problems exist because in my opinion, when we open up our social or web applications, we don't realize that we are going to an online market, so our defenses are down (the same ones we usually have when interacting with shopkeepers in a market), so we are ill-prepared and very vulnerable to what may come our way. Our mothers may have taught us how to deal with shopkeepers, but not how to deal with the social media marketplace. Why? Because they too haven't yet been awakened to the fact that their daily routine includes visiting a globally-connected marketplace.

Time For Reframing
With new changes, it's important that we learn to reframe the way we see things, and the reframing of social media is an extremely important mission that we must take on so that we can equip people with the right defenses to safeguard themselves from harm. We teach people how to stay safe in society, right? But why not teach them how to stay safe in the virtual society? Because it's a new paradigm, and new paradigms need new frameworks, or else we'll all be fooled by those that have no concern for our well-being and will be taken advantage of for our lack of awareness about these new paradigms.

We are not just mindless consumers, we are sensitive creatures that deserve to live in accordance with our nature and to stop placing our blind faith in the forces that seek to exploit us for their own gains.

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