Category Archives: Society

Friendship, Facebook addiction and games people play

New research commissioned by Diet Coke suggests that social media are making a significant contribution to the emotional state of people in Britain.

No great insight there, maybe. We Are Flint’s latest report suggests that 78% of over 18s in the UK use Facebook; back in 2015, Instagram claimed 14 million UK users; then there are the huge UK user bases of other platforms such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc., not to mention all the newer (like Periscope and Facebook Live) or more niche platforms, large and small. Even businessy site LinkedIn claims 23m+ UK users.

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

All these digital highways and byways confront our mind’s eye with a signpost showing innumerable possible avenues leading to social intercourse. New ways to chat, to comment, to update, to get back in touch. And let’s face it, we’re all children at heart – we all seek acknowledgement, praise and encouragement. Positive feedback from our friends and acquaintances keeps us motivated. Facebook and other social media provide (lots of) us with new and ample opportunities to build our circle of friends, an important well spring of reassurance and encouragement.

Social media is also proving to be a necessary source of confidence for many, given that, according to the study, 23% admit that it takes just 10-25 likes to make us feel valued by our online friends, with 60% also stating that getting likes helps to boost their confidence.

Confidence and the emotional stability that flows from it are basic human needs. Self-esteem is a key driver of that confidence.

Esteem comes quite high up Abraham Maslow‘s famous Hierarchy of Needs theory, published in 1943 as A Theory of Human Motivation.

According to Maslow: “All people in our society (with a few pathological exceptions) have a need or desire for a stable, firmly based, (usually) high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem, and for the esteem of others. By firmly based self-esteem, we mean that which is soundly based upon real capacity, achievement and respect from others. These needs may be classified into two subsidiary sets. These are, first, the desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom.

“I think everybody’s weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it.”
Johnny Depp

“Secondly, we have what we may call the desire for reputation or prestige (defining it as respect or esteem from other people), recognition, attention, importance or appreciation. These needs have been relatively stressed by Alfred Adler and his followers, and have been relatively neglected by Freud and the psychoanalysts. More and more today however there is appearing widespread appreciation of their central importance”.

Now the Diet Coke study says that “… social media appears to be playing a significant role in the way that we form some friendships in the first place. Over half of Brits (54%) claim to have met up with someone they originally met on social media and 44% say they made a new best friend thanks to their online networks”.

But it also finds that, although Brits have an average of between 100 and 200 social media followers, on average they consider only 3-5 of them as ‘close’ friends offline.

So as the effects of all this ballooning of social interaction continue to be felt, it’s perhaps worth reflecting on whether our definition of friendship has changed. While sheer numbers soar, the balance between friendship and acquaintanceship is tipping markedly towards the latter.

In Games People Play, published in 1964, Eric Berne highlighted the importance of ‘stroking’. He was referring to the psychological theory that adults continue to seek the same kind of physical intimacy with others that they experienced with their mothers.

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden

Not that this craving for stimulus routinely leads to actual physical interactions – rather, the individual “… learns to do with more subtle, even symbolic, forms of handling, until the merest nod of recognition may serve the purpose to some extent, although his original craving for physical contact may remain unabated”. (Perhaps, though, one does see a physical manifestation of this basic need when seeing those who have suffered terrible loss, for instance, being comforted by hugs from sympathisers).

Nods of recognition, in their multifarious forms, are clearly of much more significance to us than is generally acknowledged. A Facebook ‘like’ or other emoji, or a Twitter or Periscopeheart‘, can each work as a stroking mechanism, reinforcing our feelings that we are ‘one of the gang’. Like individual children in a vast playground of kids, our comments, holiday snaps, selected memes or news links, our jokes – original or recommended – our music, our family portraits or selfies – all of these, our social media ‘progeny’, compete to be noticed on the ever-moving social media timeline.

(This desire to be seen to be one of the gang is a common personality trait. I confess that when I was a young boy, and the youngest member of a “gang” of four, I frequently felt like an outsider, never quite able to compete with the physical strength and prowess of my older “friends”. I sometimes found solace by losing myself in one of the William books, written by Richmal Crompton).

One problem is that the interest we accrue from the time we invest in social media is unpredictable and of variable value – like most investments, its value can go up or down. Just as likes can help satisfy the hunger for recognition, so the lack of them can make us feel ignored and thereby affect our self-esteem adversely. For all its benefits, social media can have negative consequences. Indeed there is a growing body of evidence that Facebook addiction can be linked to social loneliness, social anxiety or depressive episodes.

“And, above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you very much at your own reckoning.”
Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington

For some, a perceived shortfall in acknowledgement – likes, comments, emojis, hearts, etc. – coupled with envy of the lifestyles of others reported in the Facebook newsfeed, can have consequences. “The problem is there are rarely terrible consequences, but rather it sucks the life out of an individual slowly, so clinicians miss it” (source: ‘Facebook Addiction Associated With Social Insecurity‘, Psychiatry Advisor, January 17, 2017).

So maybe we will begin to see a devaluation of the likes ‘currency’, as people start to re-assess the gamble they take with social media. Stepping away from the real into a virtual world of social intercourse can be fun and entertaining; but it also poses risks and the rewards are not always in line with our expectations.

Maybe that was reflected in another of the findings of the Diet Coke survey, commissioned to celebrate the brand’s Get The Gang Back Together campaign: “… despite the continued dominance of social media, what we all really yearn for is quality face to face time with our friends and when asked about their preferred means of communication with friends, 69% opted for catching up in person rather than via social media (11%), group chats (8%), text message (8%) or a phone call (3%)” (source: ‘The truth about social friendships: Brits count just 5% of their social media followers as ‘close’ friends‘, Coca-Cola, January 5th, 2017).

 

 

*Statistics are taken from a survey of 2,008 UK adults aged between 18-50, commissioned by Diet Coke and conducted by Morar in April 2017.

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Crunch time in the UK market for edible insects?

The insects market is poised to take off. It seems quite possible that insect grub will metamorphose in the next ten to twenty years and emerge as a common sight on the UK’s supermarket shelves. It’s probably only a matter of time before lots of us are eagerly mixing battered crickets into our stir-fries and adding powdered bugs to our risottos.

I’ve been putting out some feelers: according to a new syndicated study by Arcluster, the market for edible insects (such as the fried grasshoppers pictured below) is already quite substantial in many parts of the world and is expected to pick up momentum over the next five years. And, as we will see, things are hotting up in the UK, too.

fried_grasshoppers

The value of the worldwide edible insects market is set to reach $1.53 billion in 2021 from an estimated $105.7 million in 2016, says the Arcluster report, in new research into entomophagy (the consumption by humans of insects as food). The highest growth will come from sales of coated edible insects, whilst revenue from packaged, processed and powdered edible insects is set to grow by 3,000% between 2015 and 2021.

For Brits, knowingly eating insects is something typically practised only by more adventurous types, most often when on holiday in the Far East. But in reality, as outlined in this piece in Scientific American, we’re already (often unknowingly) eating substantial amounts of insect protein, notably in food colourings such as cochineal.

Although many people are happy to cook and eat a variety of crustaceans for lunch or dinner, there’s a general consensus that the eating of insects would be a creepy-crawly step too far. And not peta2everyone is happy to eat lobsters, crabs, scampi, prawns and other seafood, of course, either for ethical reasons – see this infographic by PETA, the organisation that campaigns for the ethical treatment of animals – or because they’re squeamish or fearful about health risks. And there’ll be many who will have similar concerns about insects and arthropods.

But a number of sound reasons are put forth for supporting the development of insect food products. Insects can provide a low cost food supply for people in parts of the world where producing or maintaining adequate quantities of protein is difficult or expensive; many are nutritious (though admittedly this is a subject of debate); the farming of insects can offer employment and low cost business opportunities in Third World countries; if we buy such products from these countries, we are making a contribution to assisting in their economic development; and, assuming cultural barriers can be broken down and we swallow our initial revulsion, a whole new and exciting world of culinary adventure awaits …

Of course, this is all very well, but what about the practicalities? In 2013, the $1m Hult Prize, part of the Clinton Global Initiative, was awarded to the Aspire team of entrepreneurial MBA student scientists from McGill University in Canada.

According to this report in the Telegraph, their scheme, recognising that a billion people around the world already eat high-protein grubs, grasshoppers and weevils as part of their daily diet, even convinced arch-vegan Bill Clinton to consider sampling their lime cricket chips. Amongst many practical proposals, Aspire argued that ‘micro-livestock growing kits” should be distributed to poor communities and slum areas.

In that same year, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations published a very detailed report entitled “Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security“. As well as insects, the publication also examined other arthropod species eaten by Man, including spiders and scorpions, which, taxonomically speaking, are not insects. The report makes a very convincing case for the promotion of entomophagy, based on reasons concerning Health (insects are highly nutritious and already form part of many regional and national diets); the Environment (the farming of insects needs very little land, they give off hardly any greenhouse gases and ammonia, unlike many farm animals – and can be fed on waste); and Livelihoods (mini-farms that raise insects for human consumption could be set up easily, even by the poorest people in the world).

Is there a future for insect foods in Britain? The environmental argument falls down somewhat if insects have to be imported, of course, with all the issues around air travel and fossil fuels. But that’s partly why insect farms are being set up in the UK …

Entovista Insect Farms, based at Thringill in Cumbria, is leading the way in the production of what they refer to as “sustainable protein”, with a mission “To set the standards across Europe for cricket farming for human consumption”. The company utilises grain and vegetables which would not meet the quality controls imposed by supermarkets for direct human consumption, to produce a product range which includes cricket powder, dried crickets, frozen crickets, mealworm powder, dried mealworm and frozen mealworm. Entovista’s website lays out a convincing case. Aside from hailing their products’ attractions in terms of taste, they claim, for instance, that a family of four eating food made with insect protein on one day a week for one year would save the earth 650,000 litres of fresh water per year.

As the climate heats up, new insect species are finding a home in the UK. This is a factor which is being watched with interest by those following the development of the sector.

Other farms are also being developed and the incipient UK industry now has its own association – Woven Network CIC: The UK Network for Insects as Food & Feed – with a growing list of member companies. Similar developments are taking place in the US – see Big Cricket Farms.

Clearly if insect food is to become an accepted constituent of the British diet, a mini- cultural revolution will need to take place. The mass marketing of these products would be quite a challenge. But as a marketeer myself I have great faith in the power of advertising to transform entrenched attitudes and get bug burgers and grasshopper goulash on the nation’s dinner plates.

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crickleberry

Miya’s Crickleberry Brie sushi features farmed crickets rather than seafood or livestock that is farmed in an ecologically destructive manner.

 

 

Information: top 50 edible insects – see http://www.ediblebugfarm.com/blog/edible-insects-list/

Image credits:

Fried grasshoppers – by Erinamukuta (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Crickleberry sushi – by Robert Bomgardner (Robert Bomgardner) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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