“We are going to need some strategies to help people move away from their phones and to start to enjoy each others company again. We need to think of a way to allow everyone to participate in something, do an activity where they are working together, or sit together. A way to build camaraderie with the team. Not, like we are now, where we are all looking at our own individual phone screens during the breaks.” She said.
“What if that is what people enjoy doing during their break time,” I replied.
“We should have a try at least, try to offer an alternative.” She said.
“Do you think people want an alternative?” I asked.
“I think people don’t know what they want because they are so addicted to their phones that they no longer think, I am not sure they would even notice the choice if we provided it, but we should try. We should try and be humans again,” she said.
I nodded in agreement as I looked across the canteen, and I thought to myself…
There is a mega-factory level production in play for grabbing people’s attention, and at the moment, it’s working. People are taping away on their phones and soaking up one-minute videos of inane content. Rotting their brains in thirty-minute drips by blowing away important synapses that were built through years of deep learning at education establishments.
It is a shock when you see it so obviously pointed out. But, people, we, me, you, are being fed addictive algorithms that will keep firing off the dopamine hit every time we tap onto the next quick fix.
The length of time the videos people are soaking up is reducing concentration times. The lack of connection is being driven by an addiction to the tap, damaging conversation skills and essential human association. The content is now deteriorating badly. We are now moving away from interesting and deeply thought out cat videos, into the mainlining of shiny friendly, attractive people selling us things to buy as they dance their little butts off.
I could feel this change in content when I was talking to a content creator friend of mine. He produces well thought out videos that engage on a couple of levels: informative, instructive and an affiliated link to a worthwhile product. All designed to help the user have life-changing moments and additional instructional insight into what they could do to take the next step with something they are working on.
My friend was in despair.
“It is difficult to break through”, he would say.
He was demoralised because their site would get a handful of likes a week on their well-crafted video that held a deep meaning at the core. But then a new video would drop from a dancing girl, getting thousands of instant hits, and they couldn’t compete. The dancing girl video would lead the viewer down a path and into a rabbit hole of the mundane. The viewer would see video after video of dancing people selling them stuff and promising them a brighter future if they use the product.
The viewer would tap onto the following video and then again, onto another. Either on a hunt for a change in video content, seeing another purchasing offer, or getting more of the same. Dancing girls.
I understood right then the challenge he had in getting his product to breakthrough. People want short, sharp and fast entertainment, and they want to switch off their brains to allow them the space to soak it up.
“But isn’t it a supply and demand situation?” I asked.
“It is, and the demand at the moment is for dancing girls,” he said.
“The demand has always been there for dancing girls and it has not stopped the world from innovating and building great products out with that demand,” I countered.
“True,” he said. “So we will keep going so that we can find our true demand, but it will take time. I get that”
“What is your next step then?” I asked.
“Maybe we should link our product with dancing girls. If you can’t beat them, join them,” he said wryly.
And there we have it. Full circle and we arrive back at everyone being locked into their phones and the desire to connect to that audience as quickly as possible.
I am left with the one big question that I started with.
How do you learn to disconnect?
I am not sure, but I know I will be trying.
Because I want to be more human.