The platforms for direct 1-to-1 communication have flourished. Anything from messaging apps to the direct message function in most social platforms. Beyond talking and writing letters, we can say the telegram and later telephone were the original 1-to-1. Later we can see this shift into richer forms of data transfer, such as the fax machine and of course the internet.
The 1-to-1 communication is clutch. The ability to directly reach out to a person and know that they are going to see what you send is amazing. I can send a message or email to anyone. Given their willingness to entertain my thoughts, they may or may not attend to my request. Regardless, we have the ability to access another person with little to no effort. Google search a name, find an email address, copy-and-paste, and wah-lah, you made spam.
The other side of the internet is the ability for broadcast media. The previous generations witnessed the broadcast privilege through the radio and television. Access to broadcast was harder to gain. The strength of the message was arguably much stronger. With less noise to sift through, a television advertisement became a “magic system” in which ideas were infectious to the mind. The broadcast had little to nothing to compete against.
We see the civil rights movement, Korean and Vietnam war, and the gulf war protests to be examples of this broadcast power. Poor media strategy on the government part and the high value broadcast media channels made it easy to distribute ideas. Television had to show both sides of a story because it was expected to be fair. Channels showed both sides of a story. Not the ‘both’ sides from a conservative or liberal channel. Both both sides for an American audience who had only one source.
Going forward to now, we have so much choice. We have so much choice that we no longer have the ability to identify what we should be focusing on. We can access almost any perspective. We can see primary sources ourselves through the social media channels that give us direct access to real people. We have the ability to research, record, share, discuss, and openly question. All the while, most people dont partake.
In fact, we often go back to what is familiar or comfortable. We revert to the source of news that we can depend on. This is often one source with a specific perspective. News companies can’t survive anymore by playing to the masses. They thrive on speaking to the extremists. They need to stand out and be recognized for their stance. This intensifying of fundamental views results in biased perspectives.
I say this extremism breeds indifference to important issues. It removes proximity for events affecting other people. It dehumanizes our experience of consuming media.
Between the broadcast and direct communication, I think we lose the intimacy. When we play the broadcaster as a facebook-status-posting blog-writing picture-sharing producer, we create without getting too much feedback. Beyond the ‘like’ or ‘heart’, there is very little interaction with our audience. In fact, for most people who post rarely, there is very little exposure of their work. Instead of being viewed or recognized by an audience that cares, their work is often buried under the mass of posts from a few active broadcasters. The producers, in mass, become noise for one another. The freedom to broadcast creates a void.
Common thought would say, more followers means more eyeballs. More eyeballs means more possibility for discovery. But not all eyeballs are the same. Not all equals are the same. Given the number of people who you are socially connected with through facebook or twitter, why is it that the majority of your interactions happen with the same small number of people? Why is it that when you create something that is meaningful or thought out, your work is competing with a landscape of ongoing noise. Why should your work be constrained to discovery by the cause of timing or the few who mine their social networks out of boredom.
I believe these systems, in their design, were not considered with the social interaction. This is ironic. I am talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes. These services that hold hundreds of million user bases are not designed for intimate interactions.
This is not a bad thing. To clarify, I am also not saying that they should. The best form of intimacy is in person. The amount of ‘data’ that comes out in-person is not currently reproducible through any digital means. At least not yet.
Regardless, the opportunity to feel heard is possible. When we post to facebook and our post doesn’t reach all of our ‘friends’, there is a reason for this When we post to twitter during 2pm and we immediately get burid in the mass of posts that follow, there is value to that. On the other hand, when we write something of value and hope our loved ones will discover it, our current systems depend on chance or active intention.
I believe the active intention is the most powerful. I dont always think it is necessary. I dont like to write my friends every time I write a blog post. Alternatives like email newsletter notifications exist, but it is simply another form to broadcast. I feel like there is a missing segment of communication in which there is a mutual understanding what is being engage with. When something is produced, the expectation is that this thing will be engaged with.
If I write something, I want to know that it is being read. I dont want a question mark in my mind. Im bullshitting if I say that I write it for myself. Thats bullshit. I write this because I want to engage with other peoples thoughts. I take pictures because I want other people to see them. I make art or create programs because I want them to be of value.
So its there a way to create a value acceptance contract? I believe the level of intimacy is important here. I also believe there is nothing wrong with spurts of intimate interactions. Not everyone is meant to be engaged at the same rate forever. Although I believe it would be valuable for the person who is doing the content production to know that their material is no longer being engaged with.