None of us will be around a few hundred years from now when they finally “coin” a headline for our times. But I would bet my soaring 401K that it will involve the word “Distraction” or more formally the “Age of Distraction.” Sure, sure… we’ve all read articles about texting while driving, our increasing lack of focus, and the new “app for everything” lifestyle that we’ve mastered in our “smarter” world. But you’ve not read this: “We are losing our minds”… literally.
Our smart phones have dumbed us down so much that the “boob tube” of years gone by looks downright cerebral. We can no longer have conversations because that requires “conversing” which is something we have little time or focus to do. For all it has done right, Facebook has done one thing very wrong… it has destroyed face time and that is counterintuitive to human existence.
When was the last time you looked around a restaurant and saw people talking to each other? That once venerated ritual of the American family, “meal time” is no more. Whatever meals that the microwave has not pulverized, have been completely obliterated by live data streaming at the dinner table. Distraction… courtesy of the iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy, and the Sony Xperia.
In 2015, we gauge our thought-leaders by how much they can divert us. We reward our entrepreneurs by how well they interrupt us. Modern success is measured by the extent to which the human mind can be further dislocated from the heart and soul of the human condition.
New flash… Businesses no longer sell products, they push connections. But haven’t human beings been connecting for thousands of years? Ah, but not like this. We now we have instant, anonymous connections. The advent of the “app” means no more selling, pitching, schmoozing or power lunching… no more fat-chewing, chit-chatting, chinwagging, or corporate dinnering. Good right? Wrong!
The world has become one, big file stream… a giant information batch where data comes in and data goes out. We don’t care much about whether it inspires us… just about where it goes and how it gets there. You see, modern communication is far less about words, sentiment or authorship then it is about processes, frequency, and digital signatures.
Before you dismiss me as some dinosaur hell bent on resisting technological change, I am actually quite comfortable in the digital realm, but I no longer enjoy it. Marketing is no longer a skill… it is a logarithm. What was once a creative dialogue with the customer, is now a dry impasse. What was once a branding relationship, is now a nameless, faceless, arrangement of code.
The reality of modern commerce is that if you get paid every time a button is pushed, you will do everything in your power to put that button ‘front and center’ and make it as attractive as possible.
Not too long ago, I would rush to the office to brainstorm with colleagues in a wave of inspiration and ideas for new ways to move the customer. Shuffling to a lap-top to load up tags, key words, and code files doesn’t have the same appeal. It seems like entrapment. It feels like a set-up or a con. We once inspired the buyer with the promise of a brand. We now drop digital cookies like laced bread crumbs to further disrupt their already fractured minds in the hope that they will click on something in the throes of confusion. And we wonder why there is an ROI crisis in social and digital media?
This all begs the question… do great breakthroughs in technology come with great responsibility? I believe they do and while I doubt the likes of Apple, Microsoft or Facebook will acknowledge their role in our dehumanization, the research is indisputable. Neuroscience has confirmed that we are being intoxicated by a cocktail of modern contraptions that are changing our brains and threatening those very things that constitute a clear mind… a desire for certainty, significance, and intimate connections.
Perhaps this is why emotive selling narratives continue to be embraced and go “viral”… a curious term for modern popularity. They not only stand out from the technocratic crowd but go a long way to foster homosapien self-awareness. After all, marketing with stories is like walking barefoot in the grass … it feels good, natural, nostalgic and wonderfully familiar.