With the announcement of Google Glass our apparent total disinterest in the physical world around us has been bought into stark relief.
Google believes that we are no longer content to see what is actually in front of us when we open our eyes and that, instead, we require an intrusive overlay worthy of a science fiction computer game. The sad part is that they’re right.
The tech-savvy among us are already near-constantly staring at our phone screens for some kind of information update or other. We need to check our e-mails, get a weather forecast, post a funny picture of a cat on Facebook and settle a pub argument about ostriches, and we need to do all these things RIGHT NOW. Siri allows us to search for whatever we desire using speech recognition already, so Google Glass is simply the obvious next step. Constant updates, constant sharing, constant connectivity.
The problem with all of this is that it has destroyed our attention spans and fundamentally changed the way we live, and not necessarily for the better. If we can’t access the information we want the moment we want it, we feel like we’re somehow being short-changed. In the past if you wanted to know something you had to wait until you got home and look it up on the internet from your PC, and before that people had to go to libraries and actually manually search for a book relevant to what they were interested in (Neanderthals!), hoping that the information they needed was buried somewhere within.
Now we demand omniscience and throw a paddy if our 3G connection goes down. Whatever happened to having a lively, good-natured argument down the pub with mates about something that neither of you really knew the answer to? What’s more valuable, knowing which footballer is statistically the best of all time or having a laugh with your friends debating it? In a world where you can find out almost anything within seconds, information loses its value.
Does this attitude extend to family and friends? I get the feeling that nowadays a lot of people treat those nearest and dearest to them as just another source of information and entertainment. How different is checking your Facebook news feed to scanning the front page of Reddit? It’s just information and entertainment, regardless of source. If someone on Facebook posts something interesting, you respond. If they don’t, you don’t interact with them. As face to face interaction is increasingly fazed out across all of our culture (think self-service check-out lanes at the supermarket or online banking) we turn to technology to allow us to communicate with those closest to us. Facebook chat has, for many, replaced going for a walk in the sun or inviting a friend over for a cup of tea.
Whether for good or ill, we now connect with one another through sharing. It is our nature to share which we deem good, and to feel a special glow inside when you can reference something from the internet and have your friends know exactly what you’re talking about. It makes us feel ‘in the loop’, and if we’re the ones to introduce something new to our friends we feel special for bringing it into their lives. Internet memes have even worked their way into face to face conversation, because a particular turn of phrase can conjure up not just one image, but hundreds of amusing instances of that idea that capture a feeling or concept better than any singular example could ever hope to.
In the modern world where we seem to be drifting further and further apart from one another, we share to feel connected. If we find something funny and someone else finds something funny then we know that we have something in common with them, and it makes us feel a little less alone. Viral videos happen because they make us feel connected and they make us feel like we can gain some kind of prestige from being the first in a particular group to find and share them. This is an important message for marketers – to get your message out and get your brand recognised, you need to provide something high quality that gives people a sense of solidarity with those around them. If you can remind people of their essential connection with the rest of humanity through your marketing campaign then you can be sure that they’re going to want to share it.
The key to success in marketing is to create quality content and ideas that comes from the heart. It shouldn’t be seen as different from someone writing a novel or making a film to express themselves. If we can love what we do and put some of ourselves into what we create then people will pick up on it, and they will respond by sharing it. If we create dull, tired content that bores us to tears then it’s going to get passed over. The information overload caused by our current lifestyles means that anything less-than-stellar barely registers as a blip on our radar. For something to really escape from the melting pot of mediocrity that is the internet, marketers need to start putting their souls into their work in the hope of making a genuine human connection with those that see it.