Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You, by any other name.

July 7th, 2009

This is a social experiment of sorts.

A while back, I filled out a "25 things about me" note on Facebook. Unlike the countless surveys and product questionnaires that come through my mailboxes (real life and internet-based), I was excited to do it, I wanted to sit quietly for an hour and think about my responses. Each thing that I wrote meant something to me, and I wanted it to be exactly right...then I forgot all about it.

Until a few days later when I noticed something strange: Every person on my friend list had also filled out the note, and each one had obviously taken a sizable chunk of time to really think about what they would say.

Big surprise; we didn't all flock to fill out a note about Pepsi or Coke, we didn't rush to join groups for good causes (even if we believed in them), and we didn't clamor to suggest new flavors of chicken for KFC (at least I didn't); I filled out the "25 things" note because it was about me!

We love to make things about ourselves. In fact, (and this will blow your mind) sharing information about design and advertising is not why I like to blog. I like to blog because it's about me! Who's picture is that over there? Oh my gosh, IT'S ME! I love the internet!

I love to create online personas. I love to fill out the "About Me" section on a social profile. I love it when people comment on my silly status updates. If you aren't paying attention to me, I want to know why, and I want to know now.

...and I bet you'd want to know too.

I also bet (because I'm obviously the betting kind) that whoever created the "Farm Town" Facebook application is kicking themselves for not branding the experience. I'm surprised that no one thought to sell advertising space on a game that allows users to create tiny versions of themselves and live a virtual life. Virtual lives call for virtual products, and my Farm Town avatar would be just as happy to plant Del Monte sponsored corn as it would to plant generic corn. Perhaps my avatar would even pay a little more for the privilege of planting organic corn, if the option existed. However, if Farm Town added advertising now, I guarantee there would be an uproar, because you can't change the rules after the game begins. When corporations started moving into games like Second Life, users started moving out, or at least letting it be known that they weren't happy about the commercialization of the game.

Another popular game, YoVille, is branded to the hilt (300 yocash for $50, what a deal!). But it can be, because it started out that way. You can't walk your avatar two steps in the virtual world without tripping over a product or being bombarded with requests to invite your friends (and send them gifts with your virtual cash that's not so virtual when it comes it comes out of your real life bank account).

Work all day at your game, then trade your real money for fake money. Makes perfect sense, right?

Why do people put up with that level of advertising in a game? Because it's about them.

If only I could find a way to make myself about you...then you would be about me too. So here's a start:

Just for fun, I'm going to start a note on Facebook that asks people to share a little about themselves and watch to see if/how it spreads. A few weeks later, I'm going to start another note that asks about something that isn't personal (not sure what it will be yet), and I'll try to measure the difference in response to each topic (no actual science will be involved, I might make charts and graphs, but they'll be made from macaroni and Elmer's glue). So there's me, taking an active interest in you, in hopes that it will prompt you to take an interest in me (via my blog, or the band's webpage, or whatever).

I know absolutely nothing about what level of information other people are willing to share with the world, though it seems they will share anything (judging by what I see on most blogs and social networking pages). In order to make as accessible as possible for a large number of people, I'm picking something common and unoffensive (not "how many sexual partners have you had" or "what's your grossest habit"). Nope, nothing like that, I'm asking about nicknames.

All I want is a list of nicknames you've had over the course of your life, who gave you the name (if you remember), and the significance of the name. Simple, and all about you.

I'm going to try to observe and report the results by staring at my facebook feed and seeing who's posting, and maybe doing some Google searches (again, "selina science" - not science for realsies - science for winners).


greg said...

I really enjoyed making my list of nicknames, even though it took about 2 hours...probably because it was about me!

Cherylann said...

and sometimes I don't fill out that stuff because getting few to no comments is so disheartening ... I can't take too much of that rejection.

Why can't my closest 100 friends take time to post comments on posts that are all about me? After I go through the effort to spend an hour or so on a note? It would only take them 5 seconds.

I know I leave few to no comments on their posts. But those posts aren't about me, so that isn't my priority.

Maybe if I purchased followers on Twitter I'd feel better. But then, perhaps I'd just be like that kid in grade school that brought a brand new pack of gum to share with my 25 new best friends.

whew, I feel better now. I managed to write an entire response to 'your' blog post without mentioning you until now. I could have gone without mentioning you at all and kept it all about myself. But I'm not self absorbed.

ha, okay, so maybe I am.