These days it seems like someone is always up in arms about something. Actually, with the rise of social media, it really feels like everyone is constantly up in arms about everything. How we greet each other, what we call each other, what toys our children should or should not play with, even the color of our coffee cups seem to be grounds for an all out war. In an age where opinions are shot at us like so many bullets on a battlefield, do we even remember what we were so offended by in the first place?
Disruption Is A Dirty Word
The thing about opinions is that they cause controversy. Where you have controversy, you have disruption and that, friends, is a marketer’s favorite word. Disruption in a landscape, be it online or in real life, causes an immense shift in market behavior.
Take for example, iTunes. Before its launch, we were forced to buy an entire album just to hear the one or two songs that we liked. When iTunes came along, it turned the music industry upside-down by offering consumers the opportunity to buy exactly what they wanted. It was a massive disruption that forever changed the structure of the music industry. Sounds great, right? Who doesn’t love having only the music that they want immediately available at any given time? However, like most super powers, disruption can be used for things other than the greater good.
Innovation, like with iTunes, is the shining light of disruption, but there can be a dark side as well. Controversy has been increasingly used to “disrupt,” causing the two terms to be used almost interchangeably. With our increasing dependence on social media, the effects are more widely felt than ever before. A controversial product or message seems to be the only way to break through the digital noise, and more and more companies and media outlets are relying upon them to “shake up” the landscape and stand out in the crowd. Controversy fuels emotional reaction, reaction drives engagement, engagement drives loyalty and often, a purchase.
Put very simply, offending us has become the easiest way for companies to make money.
What Do You Stand For?
Being bombarded with controversy is exhausting and stressful, let’s be honest. How many things can we really and truly stand for that strongly? Does it really matter to you what color your coffee cup is or in what area of a store a retailer decides to place their merchandise?
Social media has given rise to an interesting phenomenon called “self-branding,” which is exactly like what it sounds. Instead of the “old days” where you met someone and decided what you thought of them based upon overall impression and conversation, a good portion of the younger generation carefully crafts a digital persona. Through status updates, tweets, curated imagery, and more and more often, opinions, we are able to portray ourselves in much the same way that a brand does. With brands striving to become increasingly more personable and relatable and people striving to become ever more distinctive and individual, the lines between real person and personified brand are becoming more and more blurred. One of the loudest ways that we can differentiate ourselves is through our opinions, which could be why we are so quick to espouse them.
However, with so many things being presented to us constantly to take a stand on, how can we be certain where we actually stand?
Quality, Not Quantity
Our opinions do shape us. They help us explore our feelings and reactions and force us to look at an issue or occurrence from multiple points of view. In order to form an opinion, a lot of really wonderful things happen, the most important one being that we need to learn. We learn more about whatever it is that we are forming an opinion on, and in the process more about ourselves. Opinions are truly a powerful force. They have the ability to not only shape us, but to sway those who hold us in some level of esteem. We have the power, through the formation, declaration and defense of our opinions to shape the world around us in a very real and immediate way. That is no small responsibility.
In the end, it is a genuine stance that makes the most impact. Instead of treating our opinions like a one night stand (easily accessible and largely disposable), maybe we should all approach our stances like the love affair that they have the potential to be: deep, multi-faceted and potentially life changing.
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