Mixed Signals: I Am Not Defined by My Facebook Friend Count

Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

For years now we have wondered if social networking was increasing our socializing or keeping us from it. I’m not sure if that answer will ever be determined. But I would say that social networking both helps and hinders me, just as most technology does. Striking a balance between using technology versus technology using you is tricky.

Toyota tackles this cosmic question of balance using the perfect dose of humor in its spot titled “Social Network” for its Venza.

The comparison between the daughter and parents carries the conflict of the message. The young woman is stationed behind her computer, at home, and “socializing alone.” The parents are outside, biking on rugged trails, with socializing with friends.

Viewers are led, by clever copy narration, to see that the daughter’s concern for her parents social health is unfounded. They are out, engaging people and life in direct face-to-face social interaction. The conclusion is that they are fulfilled (despite having only 19 Facebook Friends).

I am amused by the young woman’s assertion that she has “687 Friends; this is living.” Despite having hundreds of Facebook Friends, the unspoken question is whether this woman really is living.

And there’s the social networking rub. We can collect hundreds of online Friends, but we would likely only spend a free afternoon with a small number of them. (Probably a group of 19 people or less.)

Every time I see this spot, I am motivated to make plans with dear friends doing something outside, where I can laugh and talk and feel the sun on my back and know that I am truly living.

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