Life, love and death

Its all there, online.

There’s a huge amount of writing about social media these days, and it has now begun to shift from technical explanation to observation of the trends in this new and powerful space. The more we marketers become accustomed to it, the more we can see that it’s a place that reflects many aspects of the human condition. And to know humanity is the first step to being an effective marketer.

A couple of years ago a much-admired friend and colleague died suddenly. He was one of the freshest advertising thinkers I ever met, and he wrote a huge amount of inspiring material published online and in smart glossy brochures. He had a gift for making business writing intelligible and attractive. Sadly, as often happens, he fell foul of office politics and ended up being very badly used by the international Ad Agency network that employed us both.

His name was Simon Silvester. And after his abrupt departure from our ranks he took a year off to travel and enjoy himself. He went to bed one night in the Greece and never woke up. He was in his early 40’s.

I mention him not solely to acknowledge his memory. But because he still exists on Facebook. And that disturbed me for some time, and raised the question of what one does if a friend or loved one, who is active on social media, passes on.

The answer is that Facebook now has a protocol for addressing death. They call it ‘Memorializing’ – a process that enables validated family members to choose whether keep the site on, in memoriam, or to delete it. I think that someone has now done this for Simon. What is nice is that it gives people emotional permission to visit his page and remember him. Before it was done one felt like a grave robber.

Having touched upon death, let’s now look at social media and life. Specifically how social media is contributing to the perpetuation of our species. Many of you know that the online space has become a facilitator of social and indeed sexual engagement. From online dating, to Apps that allow you to find men or women in your immediate vicinity who are open to ‘fun, laughter and perhaps something more.’  Tinder for the heterosexual community and Grinder for the gay are both hugely successful in terms of audience engagement. In the days of Armistead Maupin, San Franciscan gays used to thrill to the opportunity of a pick up over the fruit counter at their nearest mart. Now on Grinder they can scroll through pictures and messages advertising same sex partner prospects who are ‘up for it’ right now. I wonder how often it is used in corporate meetings?

I’m too old and too married for Tinder, but I believe it has the same effect on straights. And if you were in the dating space, having a bar light up with qualified targets would certainly improve your success rate. Much more than pretending to be a helicopter pilot, which I remember produced disappointing results.

In Iceland those serious Northern folk have taken to App design to address a different problem.  There are only 320,000 of them, with almost no immigration, so that represent a very shallow gene pool. This has consequences if you wish to take dating to the next stage. So the ever-practical Icelanders have developed an App to guard against incest. It is based upon a national study that was originally designed to help people to trace their family trees. But now, if Bjork meets Sven (names changed to protect the guilty) they can bump smartphones to discover how closely they are related. Almost as calculating as a pre-nup.

I described this challenge and solution to a Kenyan Sales Director yesterday and he was more pragmatic about the whole thing. ‘Why don’t they get some Africans in? That would solve the problem.’ He does have a point.

There has been a downside to the App and the data it contains. It disproves the romantic notion that Icelanders are descended from fierce Viking warriors and gorgeous Nordic ice maidens. Their strongest genetic link is with … Scotland.


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