My latest research* has to do with how people express themselves through the brands they consume. It’s a topic that has interested me for some time.
I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the daughter of immigrants in a happy but definitely modest household. I didn’t go to a fancy high school — although, living in New York, I was very aware of fashion and labels. In fact, while riding the subway to school, I was regularly exposed to conspicuous consumption — from Wall Street bankers in their custom suits, to fashionistas who sported the latest styles. I got the distinct impression that “when you got it, you flaunt it.” So when I arrived for my freshman year at Harvard — the ultimate ivory tower and in a way itself a luxury brand — I had some pretty clear expectations of how people would signal their status. I had in mind something like Dan Ackroyd’s country club-going character Winthrop in the movie Trading Places. But what I saw got me thinking about what status signals really mean. Read More »
Log on to Facebook or Twitter any time of day, and you’ll find a familiar scene: people asking questions. “In a book rut – can anyone recommend a good novel?” “Boyfriend and I had a fight – should I dump him?” or “Am shopping for a newsuit — which color would look best on me?”
Social media has made it easier than ever before to ask questions of our friends, acquaintances, and other contacts. In some ways this is a good thing because we have more information to weigh, analyze, and consider before we make a decision. But in other ways, all this information and all these opinions can result in cognitive overload. It’s like going into the cereal aisle at the grocery store for every single decision.