When Does Crisis Become Opportunity?

The New York Times has an article in today’s Real Estate section containing the following:

Five or 10 years from now, when the financial crisis has ended and housing prices are up smartly once more, we will look in the rearview mirror and realize that we missed a golden age for first-time home buyers.

Then, everyone who sat on their down payment savings accounts for a few years too long will kick themselves for not taking advantage of what may turn out to be the buying opportunity of a lifetime for those who can qualify for a mortgage.

I feel I’ve seen with greater frequency articles and blog posts (such as above) referencing the ‘potential opportunities’ currently being created. I feel as though the general attitude is slowly shifting away from the sensationalism of panic and crisis. At what point do the sensationalists need to switch sides? After all you can’t be sensationalist if you say the same thing everyone else is saying, right? Taking this notion a step further, I wonder if memes have visible inflection points, especially in the context of something like the economy? If you can recognize such an inflection point, can this be used in an advantageous way? Also how does the trending of a given meme impact (directly or indirectly) the mindset of society?

I decided it would be fun to see if my personal observations held any credence; could I produce any quantitative support for my observations?

First, I ran a trending comparison on BlogPulse for the terms “Crisis� and “Opportunity.� Interestingly, the norm appears to be that Opportunity is used with much greater frequency than “Crisis.� However, you can clearly see that in September of this year the Crisis meme went crazy and leaped up. Then in early November you can see that references to Opportunity spiked (likely related to the Presidential election) and Opportunity has remained steadily above Crisis since. Seems like a possible attitude shift.

I then moved to Twitter and using Twist, trended Crisis and Opportunity over the last 30 days. It appears that the Twitter Universe is decidedly more pessimistic than the overall blogosphere. Nevertheless references to Opportunity seem to be increasing these past few days:

I then checked Facebook’s Lexicon. Here the trends seem to be converging rather than separating:

The net answer seems to be that while I may have observed the start of trend toward more positive economic references, it’s too early to say definitively.


First it’s interesting to note that the Twitterverse is a much more niche sampling than the demographic measured by BlogPulse. Twitter tends to skew toward technology-centric users and tech seems to have slightly trailed the financial sector in being impacted by the crisis. Facebook’s demographic is likely the youngest of the demographics, but also may have less reason to be sensationalist as no one on Facebook is trying to draw traffic.

The second thing that interests me is the fact that I really believe I’m witnessing a shift in overall rhetoric. Is this possible, or have I simply been more acutely aware to positive references? Even if I have observed a shift toward the positive, does this at all correlate to the attitude of the masses? Memes are an extremely powerful concept — especially in our modern age of 24/7 access, media reach and virality. If you have not seen it, here is a great TED talk on Memes.

Obviously, we can not and should not try to draw any conclusions based on a few graphs, but it’s my feeling that the more momentum can build toward promoting a theme of Opportunity — not Crisis — the faster we can begin to fix some of what’s currently broken.

Update: NYTimes piece that paints a less rosy picture but explores the psychology of fear in the media:

Every modern recession includes a media séance about how horrible things are and how much worse they will be, but there have never been so many ways for the fear to leak in. The same digital dynamics that drove the irrational exuberance — and marketed the loans to help it happen — are now driving the downside in unprecedented ways.


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