Social media had only really started to take off some time in 2009.
In the 2020 TV documentary The Social Dilemma, the show talks about how creators of social media encourage and nurture the addictions of users to help companies make money. But the impact of social media went beyond commercial exploits. Over the years, it also subtly cultivated a deep and unhealthy sense of emptiness.
Luke Burgis talks about this using the story of a man with his martini in his book, Wanting:
Social media has successfully helped billions to overcome geographical boundaries, bringing people together or re-connecting friends who have lost touch with each other over decades. It has also allowed us to keep up to date with what is going on around the world such as browsing someone else's holiday pictures on Facebook or reading about a friend closing a multi-million dollar deal with several well-known investors.
We have been given the privilege of gaining access to more information, but this has also on the flip side, amplified and nurtured the feelings of envy, insecurity and greed, subtly creating a false impression of what we deem to be important or credible.
By acknowledging what drives these feelings could help us better understand why so many companies and founders choose to believe that they read, to inflate their corporate identities and "social circles", probably in hope that some investor will come along and bite the bait. This is manifested in corporate websites, social media snippets, such as trumpeting about a media interview, or showcasing participation in high profile conferences.
And so, we've been led to believe that: If something is sensational and disseminated widely enough, it often the "truth". Even better if someone prominent says something about it (see BN Group). But curating a healthy media presence is one thing. Bullshitting in order to feed your ego is another.
"It’s easy for someone to become an overnight expert on 'productivity' merely because they got published in the right place" - Excerpt from 'Wanting'
Remember the reality TV show Shark Tank? Kevin O' Leary, aka Mr Wonderful, recently revealed taking a $15 million 'deal' from FTX to be its spokesperson. Never mind whether or not Mr Wonderful was a cryptocurrency-skeptic-turned-ambassador. In today's world, it seems that at the right price, people are willing to say enough bullshit to endorse a product or a company, regardless of whether they believe in it or not.
This strategy has been effective in the business and investment world, social media just made it better.
People who consume bullshit will believe in bullshit. Feelings of envy and FOMO often drive people (and investors) to make foolish decisions.
One of the biggest fears of any VC is to be left out in a multi-bagger deal. Some compensate for this through 'diversifying' their portfolios. Those who have staked their money have a vested interest. They want to make sure they don't look bad doing the deal, and therefore will do anything to ensure that the equity story holds up, at least long enough until they exit.
This is the state of fundraising in the world today. This is the reason why we have so many asset bubbles.
In light of the many recent frauds, scandals and apparent lapses in due diligence, investors have started to increasingly become more discerning about who they deal with, what they read in the media, the kind of information they are fed with, and perhaps even more importantly, where they put their money. If they haven't, they should.
The era of bullshitting is over. Companies and people need to wake up to reality and stop the proverbial fake it till you make it, "over-packaging" their products and services, and start getting real about talking about fundamentals and their numbers.