In the modern world, especially in London, we live our lives connected to the internet most of the time. Information gets shared quickly online and our attention spans are used to functioning in an environment that doesn’t often require much consideration. Commutes into the city highlight this the most, when scores of adults are mindlessly flicking through social media sites or playing games such as Candy Crush. As a full-time digital consultant I can hardly condone these behaviours – it’s this very psychology that allows me to make money for a living. However, we do need to be aware of where digital culture could be heading.
I’ve recently finished reading ‘You Are Not a Gadget’ by Jaron Lanier and it’s not for the faint hearted. If you work in digital marketing then prepare yourself for a difficult read because Lanier is not afraid to pull punches against some current social media thinking (I’ll provide a full review on this blog soon). However, one aspect that did catch my attention was his belief that we, as humans, are adapting our behaviours to social media, when actually it should be the other way around. Human creativity is stifled because we are moulding ourselves to the fixed technological structures of social media sites.
In terms of social media, these words by Lanier echo an eerie warning,
“Emphasizing the crowd means deemphasizing individual humans in the design of society, and when you ask people not to be people, they revert to bad moblike behaviours. This leads not only to empowered trolls, but to a generally unfriendly and unconstructive online world.”
Therefore, we should secure the future of digital culture by emphasising individual humans and appreciate that the hive mind of social media can never reach the dizzying heights of true individual creativity, expression and thought. Just try to replicate the intricacies of Oscar Wilde’s wit, Galileo Galilei’s observations or John Stuart Mill’s intelligence.
The first step of securing true digital creativity is to refresh our way of thinking about online. Here are three quick observations of how we could change our behaviours:
The Problem: Bloggers ranking in search engines by quickly writing and publishing posts frequently (at least once a week) and using a mix of content (images, video and text).
The Solution: Take some of the pressure of yourself and be truly creative. Next time spend weeks drafting your next blog post that’s of superior quality and insight – learn about yourself like you’ve never done before.
The Problem: Producing content that’s an accumulation of already existing information, images and videos.
The Solution: Be the game changer by choosing to ignore the current thinking online and instead publicly discuss a topic you have an interest in, without the fear of being factually incorrect or stepping on toes.
The Problem: Purely sharing existing links across the internet.
The Solution: Go beyond sharing links and add your own insight to links. Make an effort to avoid sharing awful content mash-ups (the sort you see on BuzzFeed).
This list could go on forever and are obviously ideals to live by. Hopefully Lanier would understand the sentiment behind these actions, probably going a whole step further! I’m not a Saint but after reading his book I have achieved a higher awareness of the current state of digital culture and how we do need to begin thinking about how to best preserve it for future generations.