We have always had a clear cut demarcation between public and private lives. The whole concept of Drawing room in our homes is our concept of public life. Drawing rooms are meant to be the public face of homes. This is where the guests are welcome, this where the family achievements are showcased, and this is where a lot of showmanship is practiced. Drawing rooms are projections and they are designed to leave a good impression. Then there are the other rooms of home. They are private, they are out of bounds for guests, this is where the family retreats and keeps its affairs away from public gaze.
Essentially homes strike a balance between an intrusive welcoming public space and reclusive non welcoming private space. A line is always drawn between the two spaces and everyone at home knows where one stops and the other starts. While there have been debates about where the division between public and private space should be, and the debate often relates to where a line should be drawn rather than about abolishing the line entirely.
In our culture it’s drilled into our heads from a very early age that ‘familial matters’ should never be discussed in front of ‘outsiders’ and should always remain within family. If a family can keep its matters private, it can keep its honour sky high.
However the coming of mobile phones in our lives has started to blur the lines between private and public at an alarming rate. For one the mobile phone has entered spaces that were always deemed private and were out of bounds. And subsequently they have allowed people to share moments, memories, secrets and desires that were always private and were always hidden. Yes mobiles are extension of our lives, but they are removing the sacred line.
Just for an example look at what youngsters are doing on Facebook. I am assuming that most people who are on Facebook are attitudinally young. It has become a complete eco system where the youngsters do far more than just status updates. From events to places visited to playing games to endless chatting, youngsters keep finding newer ways of interacting and connecting. If that was all than it should not have been an issue. The real issue is the amount of private moments and desires are posted on online spaces for the whole world to see. There is no dearth of moments people are posting: honeymoon pictures (always private), private parties (not open to all), and even family reunions (is every one on one’s friends list interested?)
So how is this blurring of public private space going to affect the world of branding? And why should the world of branding be even interested? Well there is are two issues credibility and authenticity that we will have to battle
Social media has always been seen as a more influential medium than conventional communication channels. Opinions and conversations posted on Social Networking sites are more trusted and valued. I am not sure in coming days this will remain as sacrosanct as it is portrayed. Will you trust the comments from a group of ‘friends’ who in your opinion have been more open than others?
The second issue is of authenticity. Brands always want to build authenticity in their DNA. Part of building authenticity involves keeping things private, hidden, secret. Will this new all baring, all sharing audience respect this attitude from brands? Will the brands be eventually forced to abolish the line between private and public that they have held sacred become a liability?
As always, may be the emerging reality will lie somewhere in between!
(Published in 4Ps Magazine’s 22ns April Issue)