The Self-Importance Revolution

“A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures! Do any of our facebook fans use any of the NIKKOR lenses? Which is your favorite and what types of situations do you use it for?” – Nikon, Posted on their Facebook page.

Imagine the backlash against this seemingly innocent paragraph. Over 2,900 comments ranging from “CALL NIKON and tell them you don’t appreciate being told by them that your photography is crap because you use another brand!” to “and the eye he/she has for spotting a moment.” Don’t forget: “Yeah, strange. I have taken awesome pics with a 1megapixel webcam. Meh Nikon, meh.” and “Why is everyone overacting? We all have a choice to go with whichever brand we choose. If you don’t like this post, then it’s your choice whether you want to stick with Nikon products or not. I personally don’t care that they posted this. It doesn’t change my mind about how I feel about my Nikon equipment.”

My first thought is simple: People, don’t be so sensitive, it’s just marketing.

Nikon can say whatever they want. They have been around since 1917. That’s almost 100 years. That doesn’t give them the right to take advantage of people, but truthfully, their statement above is just marketing. It may not be effective as witnessed by the comments, but guess what, it did generate buzz and interest and we all played a part in it.

Truth? Good equipment can make a better photographer. Yes, you can use crappy equipment and produce great work, but the reality is, good equipment matters. Everyone knows this, as our buying behavior indicates, they just don’t like to be reminded by corporations that benefit from our habits.

All of this makes me realize the world that we live in. The world of social media, the age of the ever-present individually collective opinion. Social media is strange. On one hand, you are connected with amazing people, conversing about new ways to do old and new things. The systems, networks and ideas are ever-present. They can’t be turned off or killed by a master switch. They are built around people, and because of that, the collective voice of the people has more power than the establishment. I would even go so far as to say that there is more untapped power and potential in the use of social media than any other form of collective effort including voting.

However, one of the drawbacks to social media is that we have inadvertently created a problem: Self-importance.

Our opinions of ourselves have become grossly exaggerated and that is evident in our behavior with companies or individuals that don’t follow the unspoken rules of engagement in the social media world. We attack, ridicule and attempt to hurt their position in the market.

It is one thing to use social media to attack the establishment, especially in countries where dictators use whatever means to control their people. It is another thing to create fictional struggles that don’t affect the majority of people. Most people won’t care that Nikon made the statement above. Most people will go about their day unaffected by the statement above. In fact, once I am done writing this post, I’ll pack up my Nikon camera and go to my photo shoot.

But if there is one thing that I have learned in the world of social: With systems that are built for the people and by the people, you are going to have an increasing amount of people-related problems. Things can and will get messy. We are prone not to forget the injustices of others when they make a mistake. We shine a light on those that do it wrong in order to attempt a reaction. We become the Judge Dredd’s of the social world (Judge, Jury and Executioner), elevating our self-importance that much more.

So, how do we fight in the self-importance revolution? Realize that people are at the core of this struggle. And the truth is that people are fragile, fragmented and in need of something greater than themselves. We can give people validation, but we also need to let them know that it’s not all about them.