Monthly Archives: September 2011

She posts…therefore, she is?

Women who base their self-worth on their appearance and other external factors share more photos online and maintain larger networks on online social networking sites, according to a study published this spring. The lead researcher Michael A. Stefanone, of the University of Buffalo was quoted as saying that it was disappointing to him that “… in the year 2011 so many young women continue to assert their self worth via their physical appearance — in this case, by posting photos of themselves on Facebook as a form of advertisement.

I do think that appearance can be a major factor in many women’s self-esteem and focus, but in my mind, everyone on Facebook (and most of social media, for that matter) is “attention seeking” and seeking positive reinforcement. It’s just a question of degree. I mean, isn’t Facebook all about external validation? We all enjoy when we post something that gets a big response. We’re putting ourselves out there, opening up some part of our lives and it feels good when that is validated. So, while these women in the study may post more or invest more time in Facebook, I don’t think they have different motivations than those who base their self worth more on internal validations (like academic competence or family love and support).

The stories we share on Facebook often highlight the best moments and the best versions of ourselves. It’s like the newsletters we get in holiday cards, only posted in installments throughout the year.  Pretty photos and travel play a prominent role, as do milestones and achievements (yours or your children’s). It’s all good as long as it’s, well, good. While physical appearance is one dimension, there are many others that affect how we present ourselves and how we experience the feedback.

It’s no surprise that Facebook has become a way for us all to tell our personal stories, and in doing so, connects us to one another. It also taps into our need for the feedback and validation we seek when sharing different parts of our lives. In fact, when Facebook launches Timeline it will be even easier to showcase the stories of our lives. When you think about how you use Facebook, what motivates you to post and what type of response are you looking for?

Draining the Willpower Battery One Choice at a Time

By Ailien Phan

Our willpower is much like our energy level – we start off each day with a high amount and as the day goes on, it gradually drains to a lower amount. This daily decrease of willpower is caused by making decisions – the more choices you make, the lower your amount of willpower. Studies of this occurrence, more officially coined “decision fatigue,” have shown that the more decisions you are forced to make during the day, the less likely you are able to fend off temptation later.

When decision fatigued, people will most likely do one of two things: Give in to impulses or avoid making a decision at all. Considering these consequences in the context of shopping, this likelihood to act more impulsively can be used to the advantage of retailers. Grocery stores strategically place the gum, candy, soda and other random assortment of unnecessary goods in the checkout line. Once customers reach the register, they often have made so many choices during their shopping trip that they are apt to give into the impulse to buy.

However, the second effect of decision fatigue, avoiding a decision altogether, can create a barrier for retailers because customers may simply walk away without making a purchase. For example, after a long day of work, filtering and reading through retail promotion emails can feel like a task. Instead of opening unread messages, I may end up just deleting them all so I don’t even have the chance to decide if the latest sale or deal is worth shopping. By ignoring the promotion, I’ve taken the work out of deciding if the deal is something I want, followed by the right product choice and a few pages of credit card and shipping information. A full day of continually having to make decisions prompts me to travel the path of least resistance, which involves no decision-making and thinking at all.

An important consideration for consumer researchers is to understand how decision fatigued consumers are at various points throughout the day and how that may affect their ability to make purchase decisions. Decision fatigue therefore should be incorporated into marketing strategies to help her choose without overwhelming her with options.

A Stressful Economy

By Stephanie Milam

Our struggling economy has cost many American adults their homes, their jobs, and potentially even their health. As chronic diseases like cancer and heart failure continue to top the list of major health problems in the US, stress has proven to be a source and contributor to many of these diseases. Three years into the recession, stress levels have increased amongst adults, and especially amongst women.

While men and women have suffered in various ways from the recession, women have felt it more through stress. Studies have shown that women are more prone to stress than men, and as such, are more susceptible to its effects. Every aspect of their lives – children, health, education – can increase stress levels, but the two largest causes of stress for women are none other than time and money. Time and money cause stress when there isn’t enough of either: enough time to get everything done, from driving kids to activities, providing dinner, and getting a good night’s sleep; or enough money to provide for the family and their future.

The uncertainty of where the country’s economy is headed, especially with the looming threat of a double-dip recession, has caused stress for women of all ages, lifestyles, and backgrounds. From retirement, to home ownership, to groceries, to student loans, financing their lives has become an extremely difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible endeavor. Such insecurity has created very high and unabated levels of stress amongst women which in turn can cause a slew of serious health ailments… which can lead to even more financial pressures.

Serious mental health issues that can be caused or enabled by stress include: depression, insomnia, and self-medication with over-the-counter pills, overeating, and alcohol. Stress also increases the risk of heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and cancer.

But there is a bright side – the comfort and support of family can help alleviate stress. With the current state of the country, people are cautious to make big changes in their lives, causing people to stay close to home. In professional and personal experiences I’ve had over the past few years, I’ve learned that many families are sticking together and moving in with one another as a way to save money and support each other. With the deteriorated housing market and an unclear end in sight for the economy, multiple generations are living under the same roof. And while providing for the family can be a serious daily challenge, the cohabitation and family closeness can be a stress relief for women feeling significant financial pressure.