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Five Things You Need to Know: How Social Network Trends Mirror Social Mood


Discussed: Detroit Rock Bottom City, Ditching Social Networking, Ironic De-Evolution, The Onionization of Everything, All the Good Band Names Are Taken


1) Ditching Social Networking

"When I first closed my Facebook account, I felt disconnected from the world and missed the constant updates," Leanna Fry, 32, of Provo, Utah, tells USA Today.

The newspaper reports that Fry and a growing number of formerly avid social networkers are now ditching social networking in favor of certain intangibles such as privacy and time. Fry says she signed off after feeling harassed by strangers, the newspaper reports. "But I've discovered I don't have to know what hundreds of people are doing," she says. "Now I have more time for people who really matter in my life."

This attitude is a hallmark of the ongoing falling transition in social mood, the rupture of social networks into smaller, fractured niche units. While bull market optimism carries with it an enthusiasm for openness, connectivity and sharing, a shift to negative social mood brings with it the opposite -- a phenomenon I wrote about frequently in 2009 here and here. It was also one of my Five Themes for 2009.

"While peak social mood helped propel the movement toward increasingly open social networking platforms and large scale interactions, the rush to disassociate from the crowd will inevitably manifest as a reduction in broad network exposure and a preference for close-knit, tighter communities. Beneficiaries of this movement will be families, small groups and, to an extent, neighborhoods."

This shift was also noted in the December issue of The Socionomist: "Social Networks and Online Vocabulary Become More Exclusionary." In the piece, the Socionomist looked at the introduction and acceptance of new dictionary words to take the temperature of social mood, noting that the New Oxford American Dictionary 2009 Word of the Year was "unfriend," as in "to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site. "When the Merriam-Webster dictionary added "blog" as its word of the year for 2004, it confirmed the popularity of the inclusionist websites," the article noted.

2) Detroit Rock Bottom City

When you're perusing the Michigan Realtors Residential Sales Statistics for December 2009, as I was this morning after a friend forwarded the link, the first thing that catches your eye is the average sales price for the state: $100,492. That's down almost 6% from the same time a year earlier, but who's counting.

The second thing that catches your eye, though... is tough to wrap your head around: the average price for residential real estate in Detroit... $13,820. There's not a digit missing. And, incredibly, that's a 2.8% increase from a year ago. The next lowest average price reported in Michigan is from the Shiawassee Regional Board of Realtors, $57,293.

3) The Ironic Fulfillment of De-Evolution

"When you think about 1980, if somebody would have showed you in a crystal ball 2010, you would have thought it was a bad joke," [the alternative-pop band, Devo's, Jerry] Casale recently told CNN. "De-evolution happened and now everybody agrees. They don't think we're crazy. They know that it was true."

And what, exactly, is De-evolution? According to Devo it's the idea that humans are regressing into a destructive herd mentality.

Ah, two socionomic themes I really like: regressive human behavior and destructive herding impulses.

The CNN article itself was soiconomically apt: "Devo Returns With Corporate Satire." The band is returning this year with a performance scheduled for this coming Monday night at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. As part of their return, Casale and co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh, are promising a new look with corporate America as the targets of their satirical social commentary.

Ironically, the band has re-signed with Warner Brothers Records (about as corporate as you can get in the music industry) and using focus groups (I swear this is true) to test which songs to include on the band's next release and even which costumes to wear onstage.

Yeah, stick it to the man, Devo! Assuming it tests well in the Midwest regional focus group, of course.

4) US Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

Speaking of satire, I did not make that headline up, though I wish I did. It actually comes from The Onion:

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world's largest economy. "Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we... if we..." said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. "You know what? It doesn't matter. None of this -- this so-called 'money' -- really matters at all."

The Onionization of everything? Almost. Satire is a unique expression of social mood, and a piece questioning the very nature of money in the United States goes hand-in-hand with a deeper shared sense of disillusionment. On the spectrum of change, satire typically precedes more serious expressions of negativity and activism.

5) All the Good Band Names Are Taken

And speaking of Devo, according to the Wall Street Journal, all the good band names are taken. "The available supply of punchy one- or two-word band names is dwindling," the articles intones ominously, noting that many acts are resorting to the unwieldy or nonsensical; to wit, Them Crooked Vultures and Everybody Was In the French Resistance... Now!. On the other hand, this might be good news for derivative band names, such as Steely Dang, Echo Echo and the Bunny Bunny Men Men and The Smythes.

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