Last week I had an opportunity to do some filming for a new documentary, How to Build a Man. The film about veganism and social media is written and directed by Albert and co-written and directed by his colleague Antonio, and produced by Under the Film.
I responded to a couple of their questions and before you will be able to hear them from the film, I’m posting them here on my blog. Tune in, some of the questions are really good.
Can you tell me about the rise of social media in the last 5-10 years?
Social media has changed incredibly since it started. Facebook was launched in 2004 – publically in 2006 and it’s been the biggest player since. However, as new social platforms were introduced, the need for new ways of communication started emerging. Twitter was a big competitor at that time but today it’s Instagram that’s preceding everyone’s expectations. Today there is a big demand for high-quality imagery and content. People start to feel abused by the amount of information that’s available and brands have to more clever than ever to reach their potential customers.
Why does social media have generally bad press?
Social media is a new form of communication. It’s not bad or good, worse or better than another type of communication – just the form is different. Just like anything new and not time/user-tested, it has “holes”. Bullying and abuse are one of those holes that companies that own social platforms haven’t treated in the early stages. It’s getting better, though. Today even the smallest violations, such as posting a nude picture – even with artistic intention, usually results into banning a user account.
We don’t take selfies when we cry or when we’re angry.
People tend to put social media in a box of being “not genuine”, fake. I’m not saying they’re wrong but my opinion is that [calling it fake] it’s a concept. People are naturally attracted to talking only about the best things they do and that happened in their life. Pictures on social media capture that. Just think about it: when someone asks you, “How do you do?”, you (almost always) reply “I’m good” – despite it’s not true, despite you may be dealing with a problem.
We rarely say, “You know, I’m not that great at the moment.” Human beings always want to look good and superior. We don’t go out in the streets when we cry – we hide. Social media mirrors our behaviour. Maybe it even exaggerates it because it’s so easily accessible. That’s why we don’t take selfies when we cry or when we’re angry. We just don’t like to be vulnerable, although this is slowly changing, too.
I think Snapchat has made a small revolution in the past two-three years. It brought back something that is the closest to a real conversation so far – images and messages that expire in 24 hours. Plus, there’s no “vanity” intention, only real, honest (sometimes useless and meaningless) conversation and image. When Instagram introduced their Stories which use a similar form of communication, it also helped to show “the real face” of people behind the “vanity” profiles. Today, it’s more about the balance.
As for waste of time – people will always find something to waste time on. Each and every era brings opportunities how to waste time. 40-20 years ago it was TV. Before it was the radio or going out with friends. It’s not about the activity – again, social media is just another form of “wasting time” (or addiction). What’s interesting, though, is that people from more developed countries spend less time on social media, and vice versa.
How does social media affect young people?
Social media has a huge impact on people but what I see more and more is what comes before the social media – how young people are being raised. If you don’t have a strong base from home and your parents, and you didn’t get any boundaries, such as how much time online is actually helpful to you and that how too much time spending online isn’t helpful. Or, that the screen and chatting will never replace human touch or conversation, you may get yourself into trouble. I speak here from my personal experience and from what I’ve learnt from other people I discussed this topic. Yet it’s difficult – our parents didn’t grow up having social media, so they couldn’t raise us with those boundaries.
Anxiety amongst young people is very common today. Studies have shown that the way social media platforms are designed today – e.g. Facebook has various forms of media, text, picture, and video, that also changes the order in the news feed – gives you dopamines. These neurotransmitters release in your brain when you experience an activity that gives you pleasure, such as eating chocolate, having sex, gambling, or consuming drugs and alcohol. Put very simply, their release is addictive and the more you have them, the more you crave them. This is why it becomes so hard to close the Facebook window. At the same time, the activities that give you dopamines are usually a “quick fix” to something in your life, a form of procrastination or avoiding dealing with something. Students hanging out on social media before their term exams is a good example. The problem is,
At the same time, the activities that give you dopamines are usually a “quick fix” to something in your life, a form of procrastination or avoiding to deal with something. Students hanging out on social media before their term exams is a good example. The problem is, dopamines don’t give your brain any long-term satisfaction. Your brain needs an intellectual stimulus that produces achievement and as a result, satisfaction. Reading a book is a good example – it requires intellectual effort to focus on reading the pages but eventually, you feel calm, satisfied and “rewarded” for your effort.
Like I said, dopamines give you anxiety. If you look at the meaning of the word anxiety, it is related to “the fear of unpredictable future”. Taking Facebook as an example again, all the “moving” content of the different form is something you cannot predict. It gives you pleasure to turn it on for a few moments but when you close the window, you feel a sensation of nervousness and anxiety. The long-term impact is increased stress levels in your body and anxiety or even panic attacks.
What are the positive aspects of social media?
Inclusiveness, belonging, finding broken connections and keeping in touch, connecting to people “out of reach” such as companies, celebrities, popular people. The possibilities are almost endless to who you can speak to and have a “frank” conversation.
How do people use social media to inspire and motivate each other within the vegan movement?
Social media has allowed us to share “sexy” looking photos of pretty much anything that is available to us. Vegan movement is no different – photos, hashtags, they all communicate that vegan movement is “the place to be”. Users will highlight health benefits, which eating more vegetables and fruit definitely has. “Look at my glowing skin” or “look how I got rid of my adult acne” or “this is how I lost XYZ weight” is just two of many examples. I think it’s great that there is space for sharing things that work for you and can make a difference to other people as well. Almost 50% of the world’s population
I think it’s great that there is space for sharing things that work for you and can make a difference to other people as well. Almost 50% of the world’s population has access to the internet. There was never a time in the history when information was so easily accessible and available.
Another critical point of view is that veganism points out to is the question of ecology and sustainability. Studies show that plant-based diet produces less to no emissions and suggests that decreasing the amount of beef meat consumed has a direct impact on the environment. With that, what comes in question ii the well-being of animals. The vegan movement opens the conversation about these and other related topics and helps to engage people in a discussion about important topics.
Are the people behind vegan social media accounts any different in terms of their attitude?
They are positive and supportive, yes – but sometimes vegans tend to make non-vegans wrong. I think the problem begins when people start to take veganism as “the truth”. If you believe in something so strongly, there is no space for other option or opinion. But this can happen in any kind group.
How big impact does Instagram have on the way people eat and share their meals?
Pizza, sushi, steaks and burgers are the most popular foods on Instagram but vegan and allergy-restricted diets have turned into niches with a high following. There’s something for everyone.
How do brands reach out to customers via social media?
Instagram works well for promotion but the key thing is how we communicate. It’s not about preaching about a service or a product but about contributing to other people. When you look at the most successful brands, they have a clear intention of why they do what they do. Although sometimes it’s hard to put that intention, or passion, or “their why” in words.
Usually, strong values, authentic approach to the customer, and integrity follow this intention. By integrity I mean that if the company did not keep their word or met their customer’s expectations, they do something about it. The company admits their mistake and takes responsibility. This way, they “redeem their karma”.
Thank you, Albert and the rest of the team for this wonderful opportunity! The film is soon going to production and should be released in the first half of 2018. I’ll keep you posted when and where you can see it.