“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” 

– Gertrude Stein 

In 1993, British rock icons and my wife’s favorite band of all-time – Duran Duran – released “Too Much Information.” (here’s the video if you want to check it out – https://youtu.be/Fbl7hwCgETU?si=eQIHda0paL__d1O7

If it was too much information 30 years ago, what about now? 

In the Gulf South today: 

  • One-quarter of our waking hours (assuming eight hours of sleep) is spent on a smartphone or watching television. 
  • One of every five people spend MORE THAN FIVE hours on social media A DAY. 
  • Three out of four of us are active participants on Facebook…Yes. Still. 
  • Around two out of three of us are watching YouTube. 
  • Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and/or Disney+ are subscribed to by at least half of us. 

So much information is coming at us all day every day. Are we losing our common sense? 

2024 marks the fifth year of the Gulf South Index. Five years of anything tells us things.  

  • We are losing faith in achieving our definition of the American Dream. In the Gulf South, people saying they can achieve the American Dream is down 15 points, from 60% in 2020 to 45% in 2024. 
  • The optimism of the public that this year will be better than last year can fluctuate between seven and 16 points from year to year. 62%[TD1]  of the Gulf South was more optimistic that 2023 would be better than 2022. Only 43% of the Gulf South said the same about 2024 over 2023. 

Last year, we talked about the idea of “backyard optimism” in the Gulf South, meaning the closer you get to someone’s backyard the better that person feels about their lot in life. In 2024, we aren’t feeling very good. But why? Two out of three of us say that we are in good shape or doing ok when asked about our personal financial situation, which is actually pretty consistent from year to year.  

45% are satisfied with the way things are going in the Gulf South. That could be better, but it is still 12 points higher than the 33% that are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. 

Our individual impression about how we are doing financially outpaces every other issue. But it is perplexing. 

  • The economy is the No. 1 issue identified in this year’s Index by a mile. But we are benefiting from the lowest unemployment ever and increasing wages. “Uncle Sam is putting the rest of the world to shame” economically, according to The Economist.  
  • The youngest generation among us in the Gulf South – Gen Z – is spending more than any other generation on things like vacations and cars…and they want to buy houses.  
  • The oldest generation – Baby Boomers – possesses the highest spending power and the most money, but the worst outlook on the state of the world and nation.  

“There is too much information in the world for everyone to calmly sift through the data, looking for the most rational, most correct answer. People are busy and emotional, and a good story is always more powerful and persuasive than ice-cold statistics.”  

– Morgan Housel, Same as Ever, 2023 

The billions of pieces of information showing up through our devices tell us all kinds of things. We choose what to believe based on our own first-hand experiences – both good and bad.  

Fortunately, we still hold local news in high regard as a trusted source. Just as fortunate is that we don’t hold that crazy relative on Facebook or X, formerly known as Twitter, in high regard at all. (Be honest. You were picturing that relative in your head as you read this.) 

With all of this information, at some point, we give in. It’s too many brands of coffee to choose from at the store. We just end up picking the thing right in front of our eyes.  

Too much information means we need much better stories.  

People remember stories.  

As professionals and good human beings, our stories should be captivating and accurate. They can consider the qualities that we do share across generations, like the idea of hard work, family and community. These stories can be shared in the places where the people of the Gulf South are. We can listen to what our audiences are telling us, knowing perceptions can change and change quickly. 

“The ones who thrive long-term are those who understand the real world is a never-ending chain of absurdity, confusion, messy relationships, and imperfect people.” 

– Morgan Housel, Same As Ever 

The world is a crazy place, y’all!  

* * * 

For the first time in 2024, we take a specific look at the generations of the Gulf South and their points of view. We will also look more into five years of examining the media habits and levels of trust in the Gulf South. We encourage you to download the 2024 report here. Feel free to share it. 

The 2024 Gulf South Index reflects a significant amount of thoughtfulness from Katie Grace Walshe at The Ehrhardt Group and Therese Mulvey and Taylor Danos at Causeway Solutions. We thank them for their hard work.