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Alain Giguère

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Do you believe in the ecological apocalypse? - And The Twilight of the Gods by Richard Wagner

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 09-26-19 at 3:39 p.m.

Three out of four people in Canada (77 %) believe that we are in the process of destroying the planet!

And not only is this unfortunate view beginning to gain consensus among the Canadian population, but the proportion of people who believe it has been increasing steadily and consistently for the last six years (from 61% in 2013)!

In this week of global mobilization on climate issues, an analysis of Canadian public opinion on this matter seemed particularly relevant to me.

Even though the opinions of climate sceptics occasionally pop up in the media and certain politicians try to diminish the importance of climate issues (when faced with short-term economic priorities, for instance), Canadians, for their part, are more and more convinced that human activity is playing a very detrimental, even hostile, role vis-à-vis the planet. The graph below illustrates the rise of this viewpoint in public opinion.

From 2013 to 2019, the proportion of people in the country who agree with the statement "I really believe that the way we consume and live is leading to the complete destruction of the planet" has risen from 61% to 77% (a proportion that now stands at 81% in Quebec and 76% in English Canada, the latter being consistent in every province outside Quebec). A very strong statement that could have elicited more restraint by respondents, which indicates how serious and troubling Canadians consider the situation.

Moreover, during the same period (from 2013 to 2019), the proportion of the population who believe that "the world is heading for disaster: we will not make it through the next 10 or 20 years without major upheavals" has risen from 54% to 60%! This is not about a few "collapsologists" harping on their vision of a disintegrating civilization: we're talking about three out of five people in the country!

Nevertheless,  I want to point out that there is a sizable difference between those who "totally agree" with these statements and those who "somewhat agree."

Of those 77% of Canadians who agree with the statement that "we are in the process of  destroying everything," the majority (50%) "somewhat agree," while only half of this proportion ( 27%) "totally agree" (31% in Quebec). Which is really not surprising, given the  strength of the statement.

A call to action?

Such results might lead one to believe that-similar to the current mobilization of young people to force institutions to commit to saving the planet-the people concerned about the planet's degradation would try to take some "lifesaving" action.

However, another of our indicators shows that the population has not yet massively adopted new, more ecological habits. In fact, as the following chart shows, only 32% of Canadians say they are doing something concrete to reduce their impact on the environment (I am only accounting for those who "totally agree" because to "somewhat agree" to do something in a survey is not very convincing!)

Perhaps not everyone is fully aware of or informed about everything they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. What's more, many people believe that large corporations are the main culprits, that our entire fossil-fuel-based economy is to blame for our ecological woes, and that individuals on their own can't do much.

On this issue, the generational differences are striking and eloquent. While 27% of Canadians believe that we are destroying everything on the surface of the planet, this proportion rises to 35% among 18-34 year-olds and falls to 21% among those 55 and older. Young people are therefore more firmly convinced that our way of life is profoundly detrimental to the planet.

On the other hand, although 32% of Canadians say they are doing something concrete to reduce their impact on the environment, this proportion drops to 28% among 18- to 34-year-olds, while rising to 38% among those 55 and older (a 10-point difference between these two large generational groups!)

Young people are therefore more likely to believe that the planet is doomed, but much less likely to do something about it!

But we can't put all young people in the same basket. This week, huge numbers of them will denounce institutional inaction to our environmental problems. But in the general population, young people are less eager to take personal action, which is not necessarily a contradiction, since they believe that the fault lies with the big economic players who are not sufficiently regulated.

Very similar visions of life and personal values

Those most inclined to believe that the planet is doomed and those who say they are doing things to limit their impact on the environment, as well as the youngest and the oldest respondents on these issues, have very similar values ​​and mental postures.

Basically, all of these individuals are deeply motivated by a keen need for personal development. They share the feeling that they have undeniable but underutilized personal potential and need to push themselves to their limits, but they feel blocked by societal constraints. They see the climatic sword of Damocles as an obstacle that is slowing down their momentum in life.

On the other hand, what distinguishes young people from the older people, from those who are doing something to reduce their carbon footprint from those who are less active, is their critical attitude to large corporations, which leads them to express infinitely more virulent attitudes toward companies, who they hold responsible for all of the planet's environmental problems (not to mention the social problems for which they are also responsible).

Trends that will certainly change society and our priorities!

These apparent contradictions and divergences should dissipate in the coming years. The steady rise in our survey indicators goes hand in hand with the increasing prominence the media is giving to the planet's ecological problems and the scientific information on the subject. And we don't expect the importance the media gives to these issues will diminish in the coming years. Everything leads us to suppose that people's awareness of these issues will continue to evolve. New generations are bound to be even more concerned as environmental problems worsen each year (Greta Thunberg is only 16 years old).

Not all Canadians troubled by with these issues will be out on the streets on September 27, on the day of a UN General Assembly, but awareness is marching forward and it would be very surprising if it fizzled out.

People will increasingly demand that institutions and companies make significant commitments to these solving these problems. They will demand concrete actions. They will also want them to help people make choices and embrace more ecological lifestyles. Ultimately to decarbonise our economies (with realistic deadlines, of course).

Brands, companies and institutions: the threats and the opportunities

Companies and brands will have to act. They have no choice. Products brought to market, as well as their manufacture and supply chains, must be carbon neutral. And leadership will pay off. The first to embrace the movement will be rewarded. Just as those who ignore it will be penalized.

The decarbonisation of the economy will create enormous commercial and economic opportunities, just as it will for the individuals who join this movement.

Governments will also have to act. They will have to regulate more, notably by putting in place truly effective carbon taxes that will have a real impact and help companies transform themselves.

The current crisis and the ones to come have one positive aspect: they will be engines of change.

Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner (The Twilight of the Gods, the last opera in The Ring of the Nibelung)

For my operatic clip of the week, I find myself turning again to Götterdämmerung by Wagner. When it comes to apocalypse, this opera is the quintessential piece, the ultimate metaphor for the destruction of the world caused by greed and heedlessness.

Here, the apocalypse comes at the end of The Ring cycle, in the last production of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, directed by Robert Lepage. It is also the scene in which the famous sinister ring is returned to its guardians at the bottom of the Rhine.

Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Debora Voigt, Jay Hunter Morris, Hans-Peter Koning, Waltraude Meier, Irin Paterson, Wendy Bryn Harmer, The Metropolitain Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Fabio Luisi (Cond.), Robert Lepage (Prod.), Deutsche Grammophon, New York, 2012.

Are you prepared to make an effort to reduce your ecological footprint? – And Twilight of the Gods by Richard Wagner

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 06-27-19 at 3:45 p.m.

One in three Canadians (32%) say they are strongly committed to doing whatever they can!

But what is even more striking is that this proportion was only one in four (25% in 2013) barely six years ago and has been rising steadily ever since!

With awareness comes mobilization, as people become increasingly involved in a societal project at the level of their personal habits and social commitment.

Moreover, if we add in the people who "somewhat" agree with the above statement, we get nine out of ten Canadians (86%)!-numbers that are comparable across all regions of the country, including Quebec. However, people undoubtedly feel social pressure when they answer these types of questions: it would be embarrassing to admit that they are doing nothing at all! That is why we believe that people who tell that us that they totally agree are more "reliable" when it comes to correctly measuring this type of behaviour. Be that as it may, the growing awareness of today's ecological issues represents a tremendous opportunity for individuals and society as a whole, for businesses, brands and institutions.

The Millennials?

As I have already mentioned in some of my previous posts, I keep hearing people harp on the unique characteristics of this new Millennial generation and its much vaunted ecological and social engagement. Once again, the table below completely contradicts this perception. Among those who are making an effort to reduce their environmental impact, the younger age groups are clearly under-represented compared to people 55 and older (a 10-point difference between these generations).

This is not to say that young people are unaware of current ecological problems, but let's stop pretending that they are the champions of this cause (without, however, dismissing the subgroups of very committed young people).

Note, too, that women are much more engaged on this issue than men (a 10-point difference: 26% and 36% for men and women, respectively).

Values, motivations and in-depth reasons behind this environmental commitment

An astonishing cocktail of motivations underlies people's desire to take concrete action to reduce their personal impact on the environment. While saving the planet is not the only reason, it is a very important one (those who believe that "the way we consume and live is leading to the complete destruction of the planet" has risen from 61% to 77% from 2014 to 2019).

We find a keen sense of social responsibility, a sensitivity to others, a willingness to act for the good of one's community and help other people. They are directing their environmental actions as much to benefit their community as the planet itself.

In the same context, the family also plays a very important role: what kind of world are we leaving to our children; what kind of legacy are we bequeathing to them ("Mad Max")? Proponents of environmental protection feel a responsibility to act now, before it is too late, to ensure that future generations can live in decent ecological conditions.

We also find a personal consideration in reaction to the current ecological issues. It's as if people feel that they cannot flourish fully while our ecosystems and resources are being threatened or destroyed. Our findings indicate a desire to do better, a feeling that we have missed the boat and must step up.

And, of course, people are concerned about their personal health and public health. Information about the health problems caused by environmental and climatic degradation is increasing and people are becoming more aware of it.

A call to action!

A direct consequence of this trend is a call to action to companies, brands, governments and institutions! Even though individuals are willing to make an effort on their own, they are aware that their impact is limited and therefore want to see organizations, which their much greater resources, get involved.

From our consumer segmentation work published several months ago, it is clear that about 55% of consumers, for various reasons, want to incorporate ecologically and socially responsible consumption practices into their lives. The rise in the willingness of people to embrace lifestyle habits that reduce their environmental impact is accompanied by a desire to see companies do likewise.

There is certainly an opportunity for business to take concrete action, to provide consumers and citizens with the means and tools to make a significant impact on the environment. For some specific markets and consumer segments, taking action is urgent. Companies need to listen and offer solutions.

This trend also affects governments. Increasingly, governments will be expected to act, invest, and support initiatives that catalyze the effort that citizens are prepared to make at a personal level.

In previous posts, I have frequently underlined how important it is for businesses and institutions to adopt socially responsible policies and practices. The trends we are watching indicate that even more action in this regard is needed.

There is definitely a social movement under way, and I see nothing on the horizon that could possibly stop it. Fortunately, it represents as promising an opportunity for businesses and institutions as for consumers and citizens.

Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner (Twilight of the Gods, the fourth and final opera of Der Ring des Nibelungen)

Yes, I know. I keep revisiting Wagner's Ring cycle! But for this post, the finale of this opera seemed more appropriate than any other opera clip. Particularly this performance conducted by Kupfer-Barenboim, at the 1991 Bayreuth Festival,.

If one of the main motivations for incorporating lifestyle habits that reduce our impact on the environment is to save the planet from an ecological apocalypse, we find ourselves, at the end of Wagner's Ring, at the end of the world due to the megalomania of the gods-a metaphor for our obsession with growth at the expense of our ecosystems.

What's brilliant about the staging here is that people are watching the end of the world on TV! Note: this work was produced 10 years before September 11, 2001!

Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Tomlinson, Jerusalem, Kang, Von Kannen, Evans, Brinkmann, etc., Kupfer, Barenboim, Bayreuther Festspiel, Teldec, Kultur, 1992.

Are we selling refrigerators to Eskimos? Or branding: Value added or evil bait? – And Siegfried by Richard Wagner

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-30-19 at 9:32 a.m.

The power of brands

The topic of this week's blog post came to me after I had to create the table below. Even though I have been doing this job for more than 30 years, I am still fascinated when I encounter such phenomena!

When you look at this table, it is easy to see that these companies are selling much more than weather-appropriate clothing and accessories. Consumers who have purchased The North Face brand of products over the last year, for example, index much higher (at 159) on risk-taking to achieve their goals or simply to experience excitement! The same obtains for the need to set motivating and difficult challenges (at 141), and their willingness to bend rules and regulations to get what they want (at 117).

But what does a jacket or a pair of boots have to do with personal achievement and transgression?

That's exactly what the "brand experience" is all about. When you buy a brand's products, you are not merely fulfilling a utilitarian need. A brand is a promise, a guarantee, but also, more than ever, a lifestyle, a mental space.

The advertising and promotion done by the brands in the table above has been very successful in associating them in the minds of consumers with a lifestyle and motivations geared towards self-actualization (at the cost of taking risks and transgressing norms). These brands have managed to convince these consumers that wearing their brands lets them fantasize about the lifestyles and mentalities that these brands evoke. As if, just by wearing these clothes, they can join, in some small way, the ranks of the "transgressive achievers"! And it works! (Just read the indices on the table).

Not all consumers who wear the clothing of these brands share this kind of fantasy, but there are enough of them to indicate that the positioning of these brands is working perfectly.

And of course, we are paying for it! These brands can afford to charge more for their products because, in addition to clothing us, they make us dream and fantasize; they excite our imaginations! All that comes with a price tag!

Think of Jimmy Chin's exploits for The North Face or the myth surrounding Patagonia's founder Yvon Chouinard, or the political, controversial and provocative position of Nike, when they made a deal with NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Such techniques work perfectly to fire the imaginations of a substantial number of transgressive achievers across the country and incite them to buy clothing or accessories from these brands so that they can participate in and feel apart of these mythologies!

A social as well as market division

However, this is an issue on which citizens and consumers are divided, in this era of exaggerated consumerism versus moderation associated with financial and social responsibility.

It is undoubtedly due to the success of their advertising and marketing stratagems that companies are accused of creating needs and of "selling refrigerators to Eskimos"!

Many consumers (and citizens) will argue that if we already own practical clothing, companies are creating needs by offering new styles that we associate with seductive fantasy worlds. This brings us back to No Logo, the powerful book by Toronto journalist Naomi Klein (Random House, 1999).

In my November blog post on consumer segmentation in Canada, I showed how the distribution of consumer segments is perfectly aligned with this market and societal divide (based on the personal values of this segmentation). More than two Canadian consumers out of five (44% and exactly the same proportion in Quebec), whom we dubbed The Enthusiasts and The Proud, revel in brand mythologies and want their experiences to reflect the brands' symbolism, imagery and fantasy.

On the other hand, nearly two out of five Canadians (37% and, again, the same proportion in Quebec), The Idealists and The Responsible, vehemently denounce the creation of false needs by brands in order to make us buy, which increases our carbon footprint and the amount of waste we produce.

Located between the two extremes, The Worried (19%) select their purchases solely on price, and are less sensitive to the symbolic universe of the brands, although they are not adverse to comfort as a purchasing criterion.

Thus, we find a marked split between those who are sold dreams along with practical considerations and those who are scandalized and denounce the creation of false needs.

The table blow clearly illustrates this split, while recalling some details of my November blog post ...

In the defense of dreams

Allow me to take a position here, even at the risk of making enemies or being accused of being a mouthpiece for the brands, given that I have been earning my living helping them to create and maintain their mythologies (notably, with the help of all these consumer values and hot buttons).

The question is: Why shouldn't the emotional gratification created by the mythological universe of a brand be as legitimate as the practical use of a product? For example, when I wear a coat from The North Face, I feel a bit like a bold mountaineer when I "climb" the main staircase up Mount Royal at the end of Peel Street in Montreal, and the coat still costs less than a trip to Mount Meru in the Himalayas (and it is certainly less risky, even if the brand experience makes me fantasize about the risk - some people find the main staircase up Mount Royal rather daunting, just the same!).

We will never stop people from fantasizing, from imagining at times that they are superheroes or whatever else. Even if brands do facilitate these imaginary trips, it is still better than taking drugs! My example was clothing, but these types of symbolic mechanisms are at work in all types of markets.

The health of our economies depends primarily on domestic consumption, and the strength of the brands supports this. But this strength comes from their mythologies. Each brand must create and maintain a mythology, in symbiosis with the values of its consumers (the same obtains for ecologists).

Brands and social responsibility

That said, brands can make us dream at the same time as encouraging responsible consumption practices. Think of Patagonia, which tells consumers not to buy clothes if they do not need them. This brand even encourages us to repair our coats with duct tape instead of buying a new one (note that, of all the brands, Patagonia does the most to encourage fantasizing).

For me, I find "the dream" less of an issue than a brand's ethical codes and practices of corporate social responsibility. Brands must incorporate social responsibility practices in their commercial activities, since consumers are increasingly demanding it.

If they do it right, if they do it seriously and authentically, the dream component will become more and more socially acceptable and legitimate.

P.S.: Very sad news ...

Last week, The North Face announced the death of three of its mountain climbers, who were attempting to ascend the face of Howse Peak, the highest mountain in the Waputik chain of the Canadian Rockies. Their bodies were recovered on Sunday, April 21. Austrians David Lama and Hansjörg Auer and American Jess Roskelley went missing on April 17 following an avalanche.

These mountaineers were part of The North Face's Global Athlete Team, athletes who help promote the brand's mythology. The face of Howse Peak is very isolated and difficult to climb. They took risks and, this time, luck was not on their side.

Siegfried by Richard Wagner

For my lyrical clip to accompany this post, I turned to the idea of self-actualization evoked by the brands we analyzed and the superman archetype they use for inspiration. One of the most inspired incarnations of the superman myth in opera is undoubtedly the character of Siegfried in the opera of the same name by Richard Wagner.

In this clip, we find Siegfried forging the sword that he believes will make him all powerful and let him regain his freedom and conquer the world, thus incarnating the triumphant vitality of humanity (Germanic, in this case).

Wagner: Siegfried, Siegfried Jerusalem, Hildegard Behrens, James Morris, Otto Schenk (Director), James Levine (Conductor), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Deutsche Grammophon, New York, 2002.

Fulfillment or money – And La Cenerentola (Cinderella) by Rossini

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-01-19 at 8:21 p.m.

"We aren't against money, but money for what, if we no longer have the time to love each other or the time to take care of one another, if we spend our lives on the brink of burnout?"

Catherine Dorion
Member of the Quebec National Assembly for Taschereau (Québec Solidaire)

The search for personal fulfillment

I have always wanted to do something with these fighting wordsby Catherine Dorion in her very first speech to the Quebec NationalAssembly, especially this epicquote that made the news over several days. Due to lack of time, this got delayed a few months but I can't resist coming back to it.

It is true that today's society, the financialization of the economy and all the "disruptive" technological changes and innovations we are experiencing are forcing people to performmore than ever before. Most organizations are constantly re-examining themselves and asking more of their employees in order to adjust to the emerging demands of markets and society.

Madame Dorion's heartfelt cry is therefore very understandable.

On the other hand, in light of such a judgment on the socioeconomic conditions we face, along with a collective wish to turn the tide, I was eager to find an echo of this sentiment in people's personal lives. And it is in this context that I found the results, in the form of personal values, that allow me to distinguish those who prefer money from those who are driven more by personal fulfillment (and by love, as Madame Dorion would say).

To measure this social divide, survey respondents (a sample that reflectsthe Canadian population)were presented with two statements describing radically different personal goals, asking whether they felt a strong preference or a slight preference for the first statement (A) or for the second (B). These statements were ...

A) To earn a lot of money but have little time for a social and family life
B) To earn an average income, but have a social and family life that is fulfilling

The results were as follows (Canada, March 2018, n = 2,347):

Clearly and overwhelmingly, people prefer personal fulfillment to money, 80% opting for statement B versus only 20% for statement A(with rounding). Note: these results are nearly identical for Quebec.

Given such results, Madame Dorion would probably say, in keeping with the logic of her speech to the National Assembly,that it is high time to incorporate social regulations to better manage the socio-economic pressures on people and to help them adjust better to these shared aspirations.

Young people: those Millennials again?

It is interesting to seeinthis question's results that there are very few significantvariations by sociodemographic or socio-economic characteristics-with the exception of young people (under 35 years of age). While 20% of Canadians prefer money over fulfillment, 34% of 18- to 34-year-olds do (40% of 18-24 year olds and 30% of 25-34 year olds-and the same data and differences apply in Quebec).

Obviously, in the face of such differences, one's first reflex is to see this as yet another expression of this singular generation, the Millennials. But, similar to my findings for this generation in one of my last posts, these differences are less reflective of a new generation than the fact that we are dealing simply with young people. Ten years ago, we asked a similar question, pitting money against fulfillment at work, and young people back then then had also been strongly over-represented on the money side.

CROP - Panorama 2018

Money for spending and for admiration

Basically, what attracts people to money is the irresistible,seductive power of consumption and the social status it confers. For them, money is theleverfor becoming someone in society. Consumption itself provides a unique type of gratification, as well as access to the status associated with having the means to climb the social ladder ("Keeping up with the Joneses").

It is also interesting to observe that these people have a certain predisposition toward civil disobedience, as if any way of moving up in the world is legitimate!

Also, and perhaps of most interest, is the fact that they feel especially overwhelmed by the demands of life. Most of them have the impression that life is passing them by (64% of those motivated by money versus 51% for society as a whole. See the next tables.).

CROP - Panorama 2018

If you had to choose, would you prefer:

A. To earn a lot of money but have little time for a social and family life

B. To earn an average income, but have a social and family life that is fulfilling

A search for harmony within oneself, with others and with nature

On the other side of this social divide, those who express a strong preference for an average incomebut a fulfilling social and family life are really motivated by a desire for harmony in their lives. (I am only talking about those most in agreement with this statement, who represent 50% of the population, because if I take the entire 80% who are in agreement, I am unable to characterize them.)

For them, family comes first. They want to have meaningful and authentic relationships with the people around them. They are sensitive to current social and ecological issues. They want to do their part to make the world a better place. They are very concerned about equity and equality between men and women. They feel a part of nature instead of in a position of dominance over it (a kind of ZenBiomanist).

Harmony and fulfillment are at the core of their values (and love, too, as Madame Dorion would say).

On the other hand, on the issue of feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life and that they are missing out, they also express some frustration (49% compared to 51% for society as a whole. See the tables above). They want to put their fulfillment first, but feel pressured by society and the pace of life.

Note that the profile of those who "slightly prefer" an average income and a fulfilling social and family life (31%) is not very characteristic and is not at all directed towards harmony, unlike the previous group. Instead, they express a rather nonchalant hedonism, as if they find the effort required to pursue the almighty dollar more trouble than an authentic and deep search for fulfillment!

If you had to choose, would you prefer:

A. To earn a lot of money but have little time for a social and family life

B. To earn an average income, but have a social and family life that is fulfilling

Is it possible to slow down the pace?

In her canonical speech, it seems that Madame Dorion put her finger squarely on a very real shared feeling, one that encapsulates our era for many of us. One in every two Canadians feels that life is passing them by (51%, exactly the same percentage in Quebec),and an equivalent percentagelongs for a fulfilling life even if the trade-off is having only an average income.

Madame Dorion's heartfelt message was a call to reflect on the frantic pace of our lives and what we cando collectively to put a little more balance in them.

However,given our world of globalized, financialized markets and continuous technological change, is it even possible to find this kind of life balance without compromising the health of our economy, our livelihoods and the economic future of our children?

I do not pretend to have the answer. But I believe that we need to have this discussion. Unfortunately, Madame Dorion's speech went nowhere.

La Cenerentolaby Gioachino Rossini

For this post's musical clip, I thought Rossini'sCinderella would be just the ticket. In this aria ("Cenerentola, vien qua"),poor Cinderella is having trouble keeping up with the incessant demands of her despicable stepsisters.One gets the feeling that if the pace of these demands continues, Cinderella could well find herself on the verge ofburnout!

Rossini: La Cenerentola– Elina Garanca, Lawrence Brownlee, Cesare Lievi, Gary Halvorson, Maurizio Bellini, The Metropolitain Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Deutsche Grammophon, New York, 2009.

Social media – a need for recognition – And Verdi's La Traviata

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 02-26-19 at 3:37 p.m.

Is social media representative?

I am often asked if the debates, discussions and controversies raging on social media are representative of the concerns of the general public. The question is whether social media truly reflect what people say and think in the real world.

To all those who ask themselves that question, even if only occasionally, the answer is NO!

Absolutely not. And I say that without hesitation.

We can examine this question two ways: purely quantitatively or more qualitatively.

Our studies indicate that among all social media users, three out of ten (29%) post comments, opinions or content of some kind; seven out of ten (71%) are happy to read what others are saying or observe what they find there without commenting.

Consequently, the debates, discussions and controversies we find on social media are the views of a minority of us (a phenomenon that is, curiously, only slightly more pronounced among young people).

Therefore, one must be very careful before generalizing the concerns expressed on social media to the general population, since those voicing their opinions represent fewer than one in three people in the population.

On the other hand, if each of these individuals were randomly selected, reflecting all the different characteristics of the population, we could say that they truly represent a very large sample and that we could consider them as representative of our entire society. But that's really not the case.

Despite differing very little from the general population on a socio-demographic and socio-economic level (perhaps a tad younger, and no differences in Quebec in case you were wondering), in terms of personal values, hot buttons and motivations, they are highly distinctive!

Above all, they express themselves on social networks ... because they have a powerful need to express themselves, to speak out! The content they post is secondary to their urgent need to be heard, to have a platform!

An increasingly busy usage

What's more, those who have this need to express themselves on social media do so relatively often. They are strongly overrepresented among those who log in to the various social media platforms at least once a day, if not several times a day.

To avoid overwhelming you with too much data, I have crossed in the table below those who post content at least daily with those who only view content, by how frequently they make use of the various platforms. This makes their busy usage all the more obvious!

A need for recognition

When we analyze the values of the people who post/share on social media, we clearly see that we are dealing with a very specific group of individuals.

They are characterized notably by five types of motivations, three of which predominate (the first three in the list below):

1. First and foremost, a need for recognition, to be admired by the people around them, as well as by society in general. A need to feel proud, to be praised, to experience status recognition. People feel proud of themselves when they think they have said something "significant" on one (or more) of the platforms they use.

2. A need for stimulation, to be on the leading edge of whatever is new and innovative, both on the market and in society, especially the latest products and services, which is what engages people in these discussions.
This expectation expresses a need for gratification, as well as a need to feel proud: they want to be the first to take advantage of these innovations and sources of gratification ("Early Adopters").

3. A need for self-expression, to express their uniqueness, creativity, their sense of being special and a need to express this loudly and clearly. Again, social media gives them a way to fulfil this need for self-expression.

4. A need to connect with others, to cultivate their network, to maintain emotionally meaningful relationships with others.

5. A desire to help improve the world ("changing the world" may be a little presumptuous).

Curiously, the latter two motivations are less pronounced among the most active social media users, but very apparent among the less active users.

The following tables present the results of a few questions measuring some of these motivations, crossed by the most active users of these social platforms.

The indicators expressing a need for peer recognition have markedly higher indexes for the frequent (daily) users of social media networks, which leaves no doubt as to their motivation. Clearly, there is some vanity involved here!

People post/comment to be recognized, regardless of the topic being discussed. At times, the vehemence surrounding certain issues offers them a great opportunity to loudly proclaim who they are, no matter the issue at stake!

Converging platforms

It is also interesting to observe the convergence in the social media platforms. We searched in vain for differences in what motivates the use of one network over another. On a tangible, concrete level, the platforms have different uses, but the deep motivations for their use are the same for all of them: the need for self-expression and the inspiration to speak one's truth!

How representative is this voice?

The diverse points of view found in our society cannot, therefore, be expressed in a representative way by the people who post or share content on social media. While we should take what they say into account, they represent only one, albeit a particularly loud, voice. But they do not represent public opinion.

How many times have business owners called us to say that their brand's reputation was in tatters because of a social media controversy. After we checked with (polled) their stakeholders, it turned out in most cases that only a small minority shared the accusations against them.

So yes, we must pay attention to what's being said on social media, but we must also learn not to give it more weight than it's due.

La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi

Please forgive me for revisiting La Traviata, but this time I want to present a lesser-known aria, along with a unique interpretation of the opera. Anyone who knows even a little about this opera and the novel on which it is based, The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils, knows that it is a sad tale of impossible love that ends in the dramatic death of the protagonist, Violetta.

However, French philosopher Roland Barthes had a radically different take on this work. He maintained that its primary theme is not love, but the desire for recognition! (Mythologies, 1957). Violetta engineers her social life and even her love life in order to be recognized: her ultimate goal is social recognition.

In this clip (Addio del passato), Violetta, now at the end of her life, sings that she took the wrong path to get what she wanted, that she has become a fallen woman, a traviata (the only time this word appears in the opera).

Verdi: La Traviata – Covent Garden & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden & Sir Georg Solti Angela Gheorghiu & Frank Lopardo & Leo Nucci & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, London, Sep. 19, 1995.