Are we really narcissistic on Facebook?

Earlier today, I noticed an article on Mashable concerning a small study that had been carried out by a Canadian undergraduate, investigating how men and women represent themselves in a narcissistic way on Facebook. It’s a good read (you can find it here) but I’ve got some major qualms with it, which I’d like to state here, for posterity’s sake. I’ve also got a problem with the way Mashable presented the findings in a very ‘matter of fact’ way, but I guess that’s the responsibility of good journalism.

Regarding the paper itself, the author asserts that Facebook is a fully nonymous (not anonymous) social network, and builds her study on this rudimentary belief. I’m sure Facebook is nonymous in the majority of cases, but we’ve all seen examples of people failing to display true profile pictures, their real names, or even creating pages for fictional characters, providing a whole new angle for study concerning identity generation, and the possibility of narcissism within this new demographic. Indeed, within a wider context (this study was restricted to a sample of 100 college students, who’d surely be a perfect example of homophily in action, hence downplaying the significance of the author’s results), how could these new, ‘artificial’ identities could affect one’s narcissistic behaviours? I think people who make an attempt to hide their personal identity on Facebook, for instance, by posting ‘pseudo-pictures’ (images of fictional characters that act as avatars, possibly with some semblance to the physical identity of the user in question) are lacking in self-esteem in such a degree that they cling to the service, whether Facebook or otherwise. However, the findings of this paper state clearly that there’s a correlation between increasing Facebook use and narcissism. More on this later.

I also find fault with the author’s definition of narcissism, and narcissistic people. She’s somewhat damning in her exposition of narcissistic types (in saying they’re all nothing but complete narcissists), but somewhere along the line explains that some kinds of narcissistic behaviours could possibly be generated by internal cues. Hence, anyone could prove to elicit some slight form of narcissism. I don’t think the author’s definition of narcissism is that simple, doesn’t exist in such binary terms, and needs to be re-evaluated.

I’ve already stated that the results in the above paper were somewhat inconclusive. My other problem with the results is that they make use of a multivariate coding system to designate Facebook profiles as narcissistic or not. The author does acknowledge at the end of the paper that her results may well be unreliable due to the objective nature of her coding method, but again, some of her definitions, to me, are problematic. For instance, apparently, all people who promote themselves through status updates are narcissistic. I refute this, out of self-experience. If you’re reading this update right now, there’s a good chance that you found it through my Facebook page. Being a poor student, I can hardly afford costly promotions (some, including myself, argue that the best promotion costs nothing) and rely on my Facebook status updates to promote new entries on my blog, which is all I really use status updates for these days. Am I a narcissist? I don’t think so. I just promote my blog because I know Facebook is a good way of informing my friends when I write something new.

My final gripe is with the concluding assertion that narcissistic people spend more time on Facebook. Again, I spend a great deal of time using the service, as do others. An inordinate amount of time, some might say. However, I wouldn’t say I’m as narcissistic as much as I am a massive procrastinator and time-waster. How is it possible to condemn all prolific Facebook users with one fell swoop? I think this, again, is a sampling error, and a lack of concluding clarifications that the findings presented are only relevant within the context of the paper, that is, concerning students in higher education. Even so, not all students are one and the same, and I think drawing such conclusions is a little simplistic.

All in all, I enjoyed reading the paper. It looks at something new, and is a good omen of things to come from (what I imagine is) an undergraduate’s first publication. Still, I think it falls down in its initial definitions of narcissism as a digital behaviour (it’s only on or off, as well as existing in the online sphere). It does hold some interesting questions for further research, though.

The paper tries to take a classically offline behaviour and relate it to online processes, which it acknowledges at the outset. I think this is wrong. It’s a good starting work, but I feel there’s so much more potential out there, to build and research new, more novel models about how we exist online. Are we narcissistic on Facebook? Perhaps. Is Facebook conducive to inspiring narcissistic behaviour? That, I think, is the question we should be asking ourselves.


Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: What I Thought

I was quite lucky to just so happen to return from my annual holiday on the very day that Scott Pilgrim was released in the UK. Yawning from sleep deprivation, and a not particularly pleasant plane journey home, I wasn’t really in the mood to go anywhere, let alone see any films.

This is because I am silly. I was tempted (and advised by friends) to restrict this opinion piece to the words, SCOTT PILGRIM WAS AMAZING. Indeed, anyone following me on Twitter would have seen last night that my Twitter feed was almost wholly consumed by these words. Suffice to say, ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ is a fantastic, astonishing film, that works on many levels.

I approached the film as someone who’s been gaming for almost two decades, now. I live, and breathe computer games, and the film appealed to the gamer mentality in a way that was, well, awesome. In the film you’ll find references to Mario, Sonic, Zelda, Pac-Man and other lovingly thematic things related to the gaming canon, such as huge hammers, mental boss fights, lots of coins, extra lives; I could go on, but I’m not going to. If you’re a gamer, you should probably have already seen this film. It feels as though I’m preaching to the converted.

In terms of being an awesome film, the film takes the medium and literally makes it its own. Based on the collection of graphic novels of the same name, by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World takes the series’ affiliation with comics and somehow fuses the two, including the use of ‘frames’, ‘visual’ sound effects (POW, tssch, BOOM, and other onomatopoeic niceties) and other conventions from comics, and manages to cobble everything together in a film that is very much a film celebrating the wondrous nature of geekdom, and all that it entails. It’s not a film for comic geeks, or gaming geeks, or not even geeks in general, necessarily. Think of it into a window to a kick-ass world you might not yet be a part of. Everything from Scott’s amazing t-shirts (ranging from one that trumpets, ‘SARS’, to a collection of Smashing Pumpkins shirts) right down to the cinematography, and the way different shots and scenes connect to each other screams awesome.

It bothers me that I haven’t yet said anything about the film itself. Scott Pilgrim, 22, Rating: Awesome, is dating a high-schooler. Slowly, you get introduced to the elements that make up Scott’s crazy life, such as his insane gay roommate, Wallace, his band Sex Bob-omb, and their attempts to get big, and literally, the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. On a whim, Scott decides to forego his relationship with his high-school girlfriend, Knives Chao, and chase after Ramona, who is anything but oblivious to his geekish nature. Somehow, Ramona and Scott end up together, and Scott has to battle Ramona’s ‘seven evil Xs’ (or exes), while still having to deal with both of their histories along the way. I’m trying not to give too much away, because this is a film you really must see. I laughed so very hard, and came out of the cinema feeling like I’d literally just seen one of the iconic films of our generation.

Scott Pilgrim isn’t like any other film I’ve ever seen before. It’s unique, immensely satisfying, and tries something new (or tries many things that are new) which, despite the film’s clearly massive budget (licensing all those sound effects must have cost a bob-omb), hearkens it to what could have well been an indie film. Crikey. It’s just magical.

Scott Pilgrim did not do well on its opening weekend in the US. This is a shame, not only because it’s the kind of film that deserves to do well, but because good ticket sales are what film executives need to be able to justify their wishes to make ‘outside the box’ films such as Scott Pilgrim. This kind of film is exactly the kind of film the film industry needs more of, and without commercial success, I fear that may not happen. So, if you’re a cool person, who’s interested in awesome things, go and see this film. If you’re really awesome yourself, take a friend, or two. Take your grandma. Take as many people as you can, and let your wallets speak out against the incorrigible Hollywood machine, and the laws of capitalism that govern it. We will fight them in the box office. We will fight them through DVD sales, and we shall say, “we really, really want more.”

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is fantastic. It’s wonderfully put together, it’s bold, and it’s very funny. It’s something that you really need to see.

Would I watch it again? Many times. I’m already trying to plan time in my already hectic schedule to see the film again. I will buy this on DVD when it’s released. I will buy it on Blu-ray. Heck, I would buy all physical properties associated with this film, including Michael Cera, if I could. I am very, very excited, and you should be too.

Do something for your fellow citizens today. Please, go and see Scott Pilgrim.

Marcus Rivers hates the iPhone. Sony got beef.

As part of what I’m researching for my wonderful digital marketing dissertation, I’m looking at YouTube channels and whether or not ‘community’ growth links to video popularity, and whether or not that links to good mojo for your brand. It’s quite complex.

One of the channels I’m studying is the MarcusPSP channel, a vehicle for Sony to promote their PSP that was introduced to the world by fictional Sony VP Kevin Butler at this year’s E3. This campaign/channel stars another character, teenager Marcus Rivers. In proper street accredited language, Marcus talks up the PSP, its games, and also criticises the iPhone on more than one occasion. I’ve counted four so far. Take a look at this video that was uploaded yesterday:

In it, Marcus denounces AppStore title Hold On! (or something similar) for being a boring game. Sure, it’s a boring game, which is why I’m sure Sony chose to comment on it, instead of the thousands of other decent games available through the AppStore.

Let’s look at another ad, which this time discusses Paper Toss.

This time, you’ll see Marcus ridiculing the app for ‘wasting his momma’s hard earned money’, and charging for a game you can play for free. This is naughty, especially since Paper Toss is a free app. Admittedly, following its success, the game’s designers, Backflip Studios, launched a new paid app, Paper Toss World Tour, which I’d imagine only reinforces the fact that the original was a decent game. It really was!

If we examine the construction of both of these ads, it’s easy to see that the ads are simply puerile eye-poking, criticising the iPhone as a gaming platform for the sake of, well, not being a PSP. This is similarly highlighted in the comments to these videos, which are mostly (especially in the former) Sony fanboys bashing Apple fanboys, and vice-versa.

If we were to take this a step further, what do these ads actually say about the PSP? Other than the fact that it’s a machine with a die hard, pre-pubescent fan following? The ads are both sharp in their condemnation of the iPhone platform, giving no firm reason as to why. Indeed, the only real reference to the PSP comes from a short montage of PSP games at the end of each video. I’d argue, then, that Sony’s time (and money) would be better spent talking about the merits of the PSP, instead of the apparent downfalls of everything else. This is malicious advertising at its worst.

What about brand messages, as well? This campaign makes me feel as if I’m too old for the PSP. Crikey! I’m only 22! I had my time as a fanboy (Nintend0 represent!) which was all well and good, but have since then moved on to a state of technological enlightenment. I think brands should celebrate what makes them different from each other. Instead, Sony are resorting poking fun at the iPhone, which is most likely an indication of who their biggest competitors are. This makes me sad, and at the same time, makes me want to stay away from the PSP.

What are your thoughts on the iPhone/PSP situation, and on Marcus Rivers? Do let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Brands that get it: Civilization

Civilization (the turn-based strategy games from Fixaris Games) might be an odd brand to bring up in a discussion such as this. Indeed, most of you reading this (unless you’re into gaming) have probably never heard of the brand. What’s so special about it, then?

Civilization has been around since 1991, and has since then enjoyed cult success as a heavyweight of the turn-based strategy genre. Fixaris’ latest offering, Civilization V, launches next month. Great news for strategy fans, and not a big deal for everyone else, I’m guessing. Bear with me.

Sid Meier, the “legendary game designer” behind the series, brought out a lighter version of Civilization’s rather full-on formula, for more casual players, in 2008. He called it Civilization Revolution. The game was released to a warm reception, prompting a 2009 iOS release. It’s a good, if not further chopped-down version of the original Civilization Revolution, that cost somewhere in the region of £5.

Last week, as a promotion through, for one day, the iOS game was free to download, and since then has been selling for the paltry sum of £1.79. That still sounds like a lot, especially when you consider you could have acquired it for free, but it’s a massively different price point. Still, I’m sure people will be further enticed towards making a purchase by all the new, lovely reviews from people who downloaded the app for free.

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge Civilization fan. Or at least I wasn’t. Before my Civilization Revolution download, I specifically remember my last experience with the series was playing Civilization II at a friend’s house while I was in primary school. Still, being reintroduced to the Civilization has had a massive effect on me. It’s just so addictive. As a result, I’ll be sure to pick up Civilization V next month when it’s released.

Fixaris, and 2K Games, its publisher, don’t seem to have done a great deal of promotion for Civilization V, other than the standard, very pretty official website. It’s a long call from the brilliant, tongue-in-cheek campaign they used to launch Civilization IV, depicting a mock help service for Civilization addicts. They also produced some brilliant advertisements for this, which you should really take a look at. They did, however, use Civilization Revolution to promote the brand as a whole, in a very non-direct way.

So, what can we learn from this? People like free stuff, for starters, and are willing to download anything of (monetary) value if it’s given away for free. What some might see as money lost in app revenues, Fixaris/2K probably see as introducing people (getting them addicted) to the Civilization franchise. It worked on me, for sure.

It’s not often that companies give you something to say, “Oh, hello, here’s something we did a year ago, for free!” I’m sure many took their free game and let that be that. However, Fixaris/2K implicitly gestured, “If you liked that, there’s more where that came from next month!” This is fantastic, especially since they didn’t shove this in anyone’s face. Nowhere on the game’s AppStore listing is there any reference to Civilization V. Indeed, the promotion is put down to a ‘birthday celebration’.

Lesson two, then, is that people don’t like being shouted at. Games and advertisements are (or should be) two different things entirely. People download Civilization Revolution to play, not to be preached at. People are clever, and more than capable of doing their own research. In fact, I felt quite privileged when I figured out, all by myself, that a new Civilization game is being released soon.

All in all, this whole strategy is a great way of driving adoption of a small, cult-like (niche?) product, like a turn-based strategy game. Everyone knows that people don’t know what they like. If you show them something neat, which they might not have explored before, and they can obtain at no inconvenience to them, you might just be pleasantly surprised. Just be nice about it.

The Man Without Arms Or Legs

A few days ago, I was introduced to this man (not literally), that provided me with some much needed perspective. While I’d love to meet the man in person, I was instead shown the video below. Take a look.

Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs. While this might seem a great disadvantage to just about all of us who are lucky enough to possess all of our limbs, Nick seems to have done very well for himself. In the video, you can see him swimming, diving, fishing, sailing, and even playing golf. More than that, he does it all with a smile.

Now, you may think I’m just being sappy. One astute Facebook commenter even pointed out that this man is guilty of shameless self-promotion. Nick has carved out a career as a public speaker, and talks about his experiences of growing up without arms and legs. Sure, you may say that the above video is contrived, and that the entire series (visit the website, there’s more) is just a ploy to get you to order his DVD, and to buy his t-shirts, but so what?

Some might (and have) argued that the whole ordeal is set up to make you feel sorry for the man, to make you buy his wares as a result. This is nothing new, and has been what some advertisers have been doing for decades. I think seeing things in such binary terms would be missing the point, however.

This doesn’t work, because Nick doesn’t feel sorry for himself. Sure, nature has dealt him a bad hand, but he’s acknowledged it, and dealt with it accordingly. He’s moved on, and as he confesses himself, is living a fuller life than most people twice his age. What he’s achieved is remarkable, and his commitment to share his secrets to living a happy life with everyone is beyond noble.

What perspective can the story offer us? We all complain, about most of everything. Big or small, each of our problems seem insurmountable at the best of times. It’s so easy to lose your perspective of things, and to lull yourself into a cycle of ire and apathy, where it’s just too easy to give up on life. At the end of the day, we all give good lives. We’re all (hopefully) healthy, and we all possess the necessary faculties to complain about things, but also to praise things. Why is it, then, that we have a tendency to err towards negativity? This, I think, is unproductive.

I would love it if everyone who read this was to smile, just once, but with conviction. Heck, you’ve just seen a man with no arms playing golf. Anything is possible.