What’s in a name? Companies have taken words that once had meaning in our lives and used them to brand their business and products. Not only that, but they have copyrighted these words so that nobody else can use them for their own business. Language has become, essentially, for sale! I was born in an era where I thought the names of products were just that; the name of a product! It’s only when I grew older and began hearing those product names in sentences that I realize they actually had meaning. Take, for example, a shampoo called Finesse. When I was younger I would see commercials for this shampoo and it consisted primarily of beautiful white women waving their hair around and rounding up with a bottle with the word ‘Finesse’ on it. I thought finesse was limited to the brand of a shampoo. I bring this example up because I received an email from my boss last week asking me to use finesse when dealing with a particular client. The first thing that came to my mind when I read that request was shampoo.
Language is undoubtedly the most powerful and influential medium of our time. We use words to express our intentions. This could be anything from telling a story to disciplining our children. Words have the ability to uplift as well as destroy relationships, yet we have created mechanisms to distort language to suit our perceptions. Take, for example, texting and email. How many times have you sent an email or text only to have it misinterpreted? People will only perceive written words based on where they are, emotionally, at the time of reading. We have bastardized our primary form of communication by taking the feeling out of it and leaving much to the interpretation of the recipient.
How can we begin to overcome this in our modern life, when the proliferation of communication is actively at play? For one, we can use more emoticons! These seemingly silly, playful little pictures are far more effective and conveying a response while mitigating the risk of misinterpretation. Why do you think they have become increasingly popular over the years? It’s much easier to send an emotion across than to try to wrap every little feeling up in words. Lets think about non-verbal communication. Have you ever just sat around with a friend for hours and said nothing, yet ended up having the best time of your life? If you haven’t, try it. Schedule some time with your best friend, your significant other, or even your SELF, and don’t say a word. A shining example of the effectiveness of non-verbal communication is the beautiful relationship we have with our pets. Sure, we talk to them sometimes but most of the time we are just in each other’s presence, fulfilled with the idea that there is mutual love and non-judgment. I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) the other day in the Ancient Egypt exhibit looking at hieroglyphics. Egyptians used pictures to covey messages and we are now moving that same direction. Just look at the popularity of instagram and snapchat. Twitter might limit your character limit on a tween but pictures, and videos, are worth a thousand words!
Social Media Rockstars
Instagrammers and Snapchatters with ginormous amounts of followers have come to be known as ‘Influencers’. I learned this last winter when I was enjoying some coffee inside the lobby of the Ace Hotel talking to a friend about another friend who was looking to hire a social media manager for his newly renovated hotel in Times Square. A young man sitting nearby overheard our conversation and chimed in stating that his brother is a social media influencer and looking for full time work. This was the first time I heard this term and was intrigued. If you amass a great following on social media you can actually sell out your authentic self online and get paid by corporations for influencing those who follow you. Circling back to my claim that corporations are trademarking words, they are also buying out some of the more popular people you might follow on instagram and other related social media applications. People know this, yet they are not bothered by it. Like any good marketing campaign, the money goes into making sure you don’t realize that you are being programmed. When you scroll through a feed and see something related to marketing for a brand you are, on a subconscious level, being fed a message.
From Follower to Leader
We now have a problem not only with words being capitalized upon but our social media heroes. What is a person to do? A good start is to be aware of this. If your influences change from authentic to corporate you could find others. They may soon sell out which brings you back to square one. In this case, why not be the influence? Why not self-educate and live to your fullest potential so that your life becomes one big hodgepodge of super videos, pictures, and status messages? You will be living so large that you won’t have time to follow anyone. Instead, people would follow you. You can be that good. I believe in you!