Snake oil and divine opportunities – how media is evolving

audio-concert-hand-33779As readers of this blog might’ve noticed, I’m somewhat focused on where we’re heading, especially with regards to the world of media. As almost everything is becoming media-ized, and as media itself is making its way into more and more facets of our daily lives, I believe we’re heading into partly promising but at the same time partly potentially terrifying times.

The promising aspects are many. Looking at what’s been going on lately, we might just become a more tolerant and more understanding and accepting and fearless and explorative and communicative and knowledgeable and trusting and encompassing species, in part thanks to how media is evolving. Media, in all its forms, has the innate ability to become the glue to get us all to stick together without breaking, while being flexible enough to stretch and bridge the gaps between different subgroups of people who might have slightly different takes on what the actual future should look like. It might be the tool and the translator for us to tell our stories in ways that make others understand them – even if they don’t agree with them fully.

Everyone is becoming a media producer. My long-retired dad is blogging away on his very-well visited blog where he gives advice and shares resources on special education. My kids are active on most social media platforms. I’ve been in media for decades, as has my wife. Back in the days, “working in media” always brought follow-up discussions about what media and what content; radio? TV? Newpapers? Now, everyone is in media and everyone is media. Almost everyone is producing something, somewhere, for the consumption of others.

With this in mind, media has the possibility to become the universal language to connect everyone to everyone else. Today’s politics – increasingly geared towards a “us vs them” mentality – could find a powerful adversary in the media production of everyday people. While a select few are noisy as hell and increasingly trying to alienate people from each other, most people are pretty content to be friends – or at least amicable acquaintances – with each other. Nothing supports this more than sharing laughs over similar comedic pieces of content over vast distances, sharing dismay over shocking things or sharing sympathy over the misfortune of others. We’re not that different, most of us, but there are a great many forces that happily profit from making us think that we are.

While the promising aspects are evident, there’s also a backside. Man is a creature easily led astray. The dopamine hits we receive as we are acknowledged and celebrated on social media platforms are addictive as hell, and our stone age minds have a really hard time adapting fast enough not to spend most our waking time glued to one screen or another, chasing the comments and the likes and the shares and the hearts and the retweets. We run the risk of turning into feeble-minded, closed-off entities, of no use to ourselves nor anyone else.

There’s also a plethora of people who are, quite naturally, happy to make a buck (and let’s face it, it’s often a pretty impressive buck) from this addiction and the traction that addiction brings. This traction can boost brands and organisations, people and products, just as long as it carefully balances the sinking feeling of being exploited that most people feel with the comforting notion of those dopamine hits.

Snake-oil salesmen have never been a commodity that would have threatened to run out of supply. If there’s an audience or a customer base eager to hear about the new shiny product or method or thing, you can bet you ass that some unscrupulous people will show up to peddle exactly those things to those customers. They might be in it with the best intentions, simply attracted by the possibilities and challenges these new approaches can offer. Still, the end result is the same – a select few skilled or enthusiastic or persuasive people get boatloads of funds thrown at them to fulfil their visions and create the first or most ambitious renditions of their ideas. An eager mass of people dive in and bump their head on the bottom of the pool, emerging bruised and disenchanted. Only after this, unfortunately quite necessary, phase can more sustainable and more graspable projects see the light of day.

So, how do we make sure the promising aspects are the ones to will see the light of day, and not the terrifying ones?

There is a simple solution. Well – simple to state, perhaps less simple to follow.

We need to grow up and we need to take responsibility.

Yeah, it comes down to us. There will be no one riding in on a horse to save us from the bad guys (who in this case are also the good guys, in a sense, as they are enabling us on so many creative and positive levels). No, no one is saving us, so we need to save ourselves. This means we need to:

  • learn how to critically evaluate how we spend out finite amount of time here on Earth. Do we want to spend it watching someone make a fool of themselves on Snapchat, or do we want to turn our attention to something that helps us grow as people or helps our society become a better place? And if the answer is the former, at the very least learn to acknowledge that you’ve made that decision and take responsibility for it.
  • evaluate ourselves as global brands, which we in effect are. The world is full of examples of people who’ve not thought one iota about their own brands, and gone down in flames because of it. And while this might sound calculated and boring as anything, the truth is that we’re just bringing back the responsibility we all have towards each other to the field of media (and particularly social media), a responsibility that has been lacking thus far.
  • think bigger thoughts and appreciate ourselves more. We all have the possibility to become great. We all can change other people’s lives for the better. We are all unique and marvels of creation – and we should treat ourselves with the respect that deserves.

There’s more – a lot more – as well, but this is a good start. We’re all parts of a global collective journey, having been fused together via broadband and 4G, via Instagram and MySpace, via film and tv and books and radio…. and we are on the brink of something that could be absolutely marvellous.

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