Always wanted to make a stylish entrance? For just a few pennies, you can hire a luxury car with a driver to show everyone that you made it. Or what about extra likes on Facebook? The perfect picture that we all long for is now available for sale. ‘Give me a fake friend too, please.’
For a moment, the Stichting Ideële Reclame, better known as SIRE, made us believe that this is actually possible. For the foundation’s latest campaign, called “Who are you really doing it for?”, The Good Life Agency was created. The image agency provided services like a nice car or extra likes to ensure that ordinary people can radiate success and happiness. It turned out to be a social experiment to see how far people would go to boost their image. Bas van Berkestijn, creator of this theme, tells us why this is a serious social problem.
Bas: “Perfection seems to be the norm these days. Many people do their best to show the world how good they are. There is a kind of peer pressure to go along with this. At the same time we also see that more and more people are down and depressed. It seems that life is becoming a rat race and more and more people have difficulty dealing with this pressure. Everything is about status. We see ourselves more and more as a product that we have to promote. Social media appear to be a tool for this self-promotion. You have to ask yourself if this will actually make you happier. Happiness cannot be a goal in itself, it is a consequence of the things you do. Surely you become happiest by doing what you enjoy yourself. It seems that we are so busy trying to appear happy that we have forgotten. ”
Bas noticed that being unhappy and normal is a taboo subject. He therefore sees the campaign as a kind of ode to unhappiness and imperfection. Two major insights emerged from his research into this topic. The first is that people care more about what others think of them than what they think of themselves, and social media has greatly amplified this phenomenon. But there are plenty of studies that show that excessive use of social media does not make people happier, rather the opposite.
Second, there is the perfect standard as a benchmark. There is an illusion of social engineering these days, says Bas. “Many think that you are completely in control of your own happiness, while we are also constantly betrayed by randomness and circumstances. We have all created a society in which we supposedly have equal opportunities and if you haven’t made it, it’s only down to one person and that’s you. That’s why we also like to reach for labels that excuse us if we don’t achieve that. You can also just be unlucky. Luck plays a very big role. You are fooling yourself the most by giving the impression that life and happiness are completely in your own hands. There’s too much of a penchant for social engineering.” So, unfortunately, this illusion results in the pursuit of that, or at least the appearance of it to others, perfect life. “In doing so, we must not forget that misfortune and adversity also arm you. You even need it as an ingredient for a happy life. Deficiency, doubt or frustration is the only fuel for creativity, so we should embrace imperfections as such more. In a closed, perfect system, creativity has no right to exist.”
The effect of the “Who are you actually doing it for?” campaign was clearly visible as was evident from the measurements taken. SIRE also received many reactions and it appears that for many the campaign has been a real eye-opener. SIRE also asks you to give some thought to what you are actually doing and for whom. What does it mean to you to be meaningful and how do you want to fill in your life? Try not to take too much into account what others think of this. Make sure you are the architect of your own life and that you do not let it depend on the number of likes or expectations of others. It is up to you to decide to what extent you are engaged in this. Because at least a lot of research has shown that a high degree of autonomy does indeed make you happier.