Ford, as part of its publicity push on the occasion of Mustang's 50 years on the road, recently conducted a survey. The basic idea was to get a sense of Americans' sense of adventure as it stands in 2014. And part of that sense, adventure being what it is and Americans being what they are, has to do with technology.
In an online survey of "1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+"—a sample size that, caveat, is not large—Ford asked a series of questions about Americans' relationship with both new tech and new experiences. Among the findings: Almost half (45 percent) of the respondents who use social media think that their friends and followers come across as more adventurous on those platforms than they actually are in, as it were, "real life." Men are also slightly more likely than women to think that they'll be the first to try new technologies (33 percent to 25 percent). And, when asked which people are most likely to convince them to try something new, the respondents replied that spouses and significant others were more influential, at 32 percent, than friends (23 percent), family (21 percent), and children (19 percent).
The most striking stat, though, is one that has to do with the particular reasons people take on adventures in the first place. When Ford asked its survey participants, "Have you ever, even once, done something just so you could post about it on social media?" 16 percent of them replied, "yes, more than once." And 13 percent of them replied, "yes, once." Which means that nearly a third of Ford's respondents have done something simply to write or tweet or post or talk about it online.
It's a percentage that is both revealingly high and revealingly low. On the one hand, the idea of doing something not to experience it, but to talk about it, is ... sort of sad. And a third of us are doing it!
On the other hand, though, that number might be misleadingly small. It's likely, I'd figure, that more than a third of social media users have done something IRL to talk about them on the w-e-b; it's likely as well that they're a little embarrassed to admit to it. In the America of 2014, the line between experience itself and experience-as-mediated-through-the-Internet can be difficult to discern. The Ford survey talks about "social media" versus "real life," but that, of course, is a false distinction. Social media is real life. It's just that we're hesitant, at this point, to admit it.