In a recent post, I wrote about the prevalence of “fake news” with regard to the images of men and women we see in advertising:
I noted that people have been manipulating their images for centuries. But the big news today is that mainstream consumers now employ the same methods that used to be available only to the rich and famous as they actively manage their digital selves.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the entire cosmetics and apparel industrial complex owes its very existence to the desires of the masses to manage their social identities. Professional “identity managers” assume many forms, from hairstylists and cosmetologists to wardrobe consultants and resume writers. Doctors perform nearly 860,000 cosmetic-surgery procedures in the U.S. each year alone. In some circles nose jobs or breast implants are part of the rite-of-passage for teenage girls, and an increasing number of men spring for pectoral enlargements.
We may still need a trained surgeon to reshape a troublesome nose, but we can undertake other makeovers on our own. This is especially true when it comes to the identity we express on digital platforms. As I noted previously, Hugh Hefner probably owes his fortune to the abilities of the technicians who created Playboy’s centerfolds beginning in the 1950s – these airbrushed women literally do not exist, at least as they appear in the magazine.
Today, many techie teenagers can effortlessly produce the same results with PhotoShop or even SnapChat. Millions of us manage – and embellish — our digital identities when we strategically populate a Facebook profile page or post a self-aggrandizing entry (perhaps with vintage photo from 20 years ago to match) on an online dating site.
Many marketers don’t seem to grasp the steady expansion of their customers’ energies and even their very identities into online realms. Indeed, the firm line many of us draw between “real world” and “online” activities grows increasingly porous; the distinction will probably seem quaint to our grandchildren. Already many millions of consumers commute back and forth between their real and digital selves multiple times each day. It’s unlikely that the 10 million kids who visit a virtual world like Habbo Hotel for an hour or more each day would regard that aspect of their lives differently from the time they spend running on the playground. A lot of kids really are what they post, and so are their parents.
TO BE CONTINUED…