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Oversupply and anxiety

Richard Parker
This is a post by Richard Parker

Trends, Culture, Content, Curation

June 10, 2020

If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably noticed that your social media feeds feel suddenly... busier. This is not surprising. Faced with the disruption to their business models wrought by COVID-19 – and knowing that lots of people were stuck at home and not able to live their usual lives – lots of businesses switched to digital channels. Everyone from fitness instructors to chefs has been pumping out ‘virtual events’ using Zoom.

Businesses started falling over each other to push out content that they thought would be useful, empathetic or entertaining in the context of lockdown. Heck, we did it - stuffing our last newsletter full of original content designed to help our clients navigate the effects of COVID-19. 

But as Packy McCormack points out in the excellent Not Boring newsletter, when there is so much stuff out there, people feel overwhelmed by choice. And when they do want to engage there is a smorgasbord of unbelievable options out there, for free

Content glut 

We have created a glut of content - a massive oversupply of content relative to demand. Arguably this was already the case, with many commentators railing against ‘content for content’s sake’ and lamenting the internet ‘filling up’ with ‘me too content’. But the current situation has exacerbated the phenomenon, and added new channels (Zoom!) into the mix on top. 

This has resulted in two things.

Firstly anxiety. Social media - from Instagram to LinkedIn - has often been accused of causing mental health issues. People become anxious as they measure up their lives against the perceived lives of others. Whether that’s looks, clothes or lifestyles on Instagram; or career progression, expertise and thought leadership (dramatically dialling up a sense of imposter syndrome) on LinkedIn. And the bombardment we are undergoing from all angles trying to ‘help’ us through this period is overwhelming and anxiety inducing. Am I following the right advice? Have I read all of the opinion pieces? If I don’t read that article will I be missing some life-changing nugget of information? What is my opinion? What should I do??

Secondly (and partly as a consequence of the first) it’s given rise to people switching off - or reducing their content consumption to a smaller number of trusted channels and commentators. When faced with overwhelming content options, we shut up shop. 

Where does this leave us?

Well, when there is a glut of content, what is scarce is the ability to curate it - to parse all of that content out there down into things that are generally interesting, insightful, useful or fun. This thinking will certainly be informing the way we advise our clients during this period. And it's informed the refreshed approach to this email.