Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:May 13th, 2007 09:41 EST
Medium Is The Method

Medium Is The Method

By Sean Stubblefield

Over the last 50 years, people have become more apathetic, more self-centered and more despondent.

While people are concerning themselves with negative effects of various media content, I think it is equally important that we consider adverse influences of the media which are delivering that content… particularly the inundation and prominence of these media in our daily lives.

What effect do these entertainment and communication media have on our socialization, on our ability and willingness to socialize?

For the last ten years, an increasing number of children have been raised by television and video games more than or instead of parents. Parents too busy or bothered find it more convenient than interacting with their kids. We are conditioned to be passive audiences and active speakers. On TV, so-called debates and discussions are merely composed of talking heads or people talking at and over each other. Even many public schools operate this way, with little responsive involvement from students to teachers who merely dictate and recite.

When this is the example instilled in children, why should we be surprised when they mimic?

In the past 5 years, the primary means and modes of communication has been by phone, email, instant messaging, message boards, blogs, vlogs, chat rooms and/or texting. In gradually greater numbers, fewer people are directly interacting with each other, habitualized into mediating or filtering their socializing through machines. Electronic media are now the primary source of communication, entertainment and news.

Most people are more likely to email someone in the next room or cubicle rather than simply make the small effort of walking over and speaking face to face. This makes our socializing particularly one sided. We’re not talking with anyone any more, but at them. Real time, face to face communication is and has been rapidly and steadily decreasing. It reeks of cowardice and laziness and disregard. An attitude and behavior is created which indicates that people are not interested in a dialogue, but merely to speak. In seeking to make themselves feel more real by participating, the less real others feel to them. The more engaged they try to be, the less engaged they really are, in a perpetual cycle of disillusionment and unfulfillment.

The more isolated they feel, the more outspoken they are inclined to be, in a misguided and falsified attempt at-- although in a genuine desire for-- communion. Almost addictive, the more that the insecure participate in electronic media, the less connected they are and the more they need to participate. Because this media only gives the appearance and impression of relationship. And sometimes close enough is good enough. But attention and expression are not the same as involvement or inclusion.

Instead of using the media as a tool of convenience for communicating, the majority of people use them as a surrogate or substitute for actual, genuine interaction. We have become-- no, we have made ourselves-- cordoned and filtered by these media. There are many people, especially adolescents and pre-teens, whose primarily arena of social discourse and interaction is the internet. Their social lives mostly or entirely consist of and are conducted online. The terms and conditions of friendship have become loosely defined and diluted. Do people become less real to us when they are mitigated electronically? Do these distancing media make it easier for us to disregard people as actual, living people (he asked rhetorically)?

In attempting to become more connected, we’ve ironically become less connected in any meaningful way.

How can this not have a negative impact on our relationships, and our attitudes about and toward other people? How can this not tend to stunt human development and effectively retard us socially? Without a counter balance and moderation, how can this not make us more anti-social as we become less considerate of and less empathetic and sympathetic to other people? Does that make us less democratic?

By confusing the map for the terrain, we have evolved into a faux-community of cyborgs.

Yes, there are also many benefits from these media, I’m not blind to that. But nor should anyone be blind to the detriments… the bad that comes with the good. When we have video games that pretend at “simulating” fishing, golf, skate boarding, baseball, and the real world… I think we’re in trouble. It’s time to put down the remote. Let’s be careful to not pursue the cyber world at the expense of the real one.