Media Dependency: We can reverse this trend.

In the field of communication, we have a number of well established theories that we can use as lenses by which we see the world when conducing research studies. Some of these theories include information processing, hypodermic needle theory, agenda setting and media dependency. Media dependency operates a little bit like this. The more dependent a person is with a particular media device to fulfill his needs, the more crucial having that media device will be to him.  People today, differently from when we didn’t have smartphones, are dependent on all of this technology to understand the world around them. 

I can’t stop thinking about what is happening down in Puerto Rico because the media is estimating that our Caribbean territory may not have electricity for six whole months! I am surprised that the media isn’t reporting on that too much as millions of people down there aren’t able to go online and have conversations with family and friends on Facebook. By the way, can you survive six months without having cell phone access? I have to admit that living without my iPhone for six days stops my professional life. Without needing to sound very dramatic yet being reasonable, I don’t think I can function without a smartphone these days. Part of how I communicate with my students is via text messaging. If no cell towers are available for me to chat with them, I become severely handicapped professionally. 

As a matter of fact, Dr. Joel Kailing, Chair of the Department of Communication Arts at Lee and I were chatting about the challenges that the people of Puerto Rico could potentially suffer because of the devastations caused by Hurricane Maria. I cannot imagine what is passing through the minds and hearts of the Puerto Rican youth and its young professionals. We are so dependent on the media these days that having no exposure to it can even cause some people to experience a withdrawal. What a tragedy!

As I am writing this piece, Fox just made the announcement that a few Puerto Rican citizens made contact with their friends and family here in the United States. They were able to use their media devices for a very short bit. Access to cell phone service down there can only be attained in a very tiny part of the Island, according to the report. The lucky few who were able to connect with their relatives had to drive for hours in order to reach the island’s hot spot. They were lucky if they could get a bar of service and a few seconds to talk.

I wonder if they are using CB radios to communicate back and fourth with the authorities and each other throughout the day. This whole situation in Puerto Rico reminds me of what happened during hurricane Katrina back in 2005. We were so dependent on cell phone technology back then that when we lost it, a disaster of great magnitude occurred. People couldn’t communicate because they rarely had cell phone reception. We invested in all these new systems but when the system failed, we had no defense. Over a thousand people died because of this dependency on new media and lack of traditional infrastructure. See? Dependency on technology can makes us much more venerable if we decide to discontinue our old yet reliable systems. As I always say, “use technology in moderation.” It is okay to not be so dependent on “new media.”    

We are, in one way or another, dependent on the media. I am not sure, however, if we should rely on all these new technology to communicate with friends in the United States, Puerto Rico or in our own town of Cleveland, Tennessee. I wonder if we should bring back the old landline phone system rather than always relying on voice over IP phone lines or cell phones. Just because we maybe dependent on a variety of media doesn’t mean that we should always trust in it. As my great grandmother once said, “When you don’t know about something or someone, always trust distrusting.”  Remember: Media is only powerful because of our dependency in it. We can reverse this trend.

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Where Do You Stand In The Human Robot Cycle?

There has been a lot of talk about the side effects of technology and innovation in our society these days. Conversations relating to tech addiction, eye sight issues, stress and anxiety due to the excessive use of smartphones in our society are literally happening everywhere regardless of culture or town size. Human-machine conversations and concerns seem to be happening with frequency in the aisles of New York City to suburban Los Angeles and everywhere in between, including in our great town of Cleveland, Tennessee where I live. There have been numerous television segments produced in mainstream media condemning the excessive use of technology among the youth and thousands if not tens of thousands of articles written on the subject, published in newspapers and magazines all over the globe. I have lost count on how many artifacts have been written on this topic in blogs across the internet.  Everyone is talking about it quite frequently, as a matter of fact. 

What we haven’t talked about too much in both the traditional and informal media yet is why we are so attached to the smartphone and where do we stand psychologically in relation to it. Why are people insisting on using their smartphones rather than taking a break from it when they know that the overuse isn’t good for their eyesight. Why are intelligent people risking spending time in prison in order to hopefully capture the perfect selfie at the expense of not calling 911?

Why do professionals need to be on their smartphones “multi-tasking” during a business meeting for years on end without having anybody demanding that they put their device away? How about moms who are spending less quality time with their daughters after work in order to converse with strangers on twitter at 8:45pm? The former realities don’t make too much sense to a lot of people. It makes a lot of sense to me. I bet it will make a lot of sense to you, as well.

What if I told you that the former is happening all over the world, regardless of culture, color or creed because the more people interact with smartphones, the more they become like one without noticing. What Marshall McLuhan theorized back in 1960’s in his work, “Understanding Media: Extensions of Man” was right. As McLuhan points out, in the “global village” is definitely “numb” to the effects of technology in our society which results in many people not seeing what smartphones do to them. People are becoming like a computer but are unable to “see it.” We are on our technological devices  many hours on end and growing. It seems that smartphones the new soma substance a described in the classic book, “A Brave New World.” Elaborate… 

Here is the good news, though. There is a brand new model of human behavior that explains what might be really happening to you and others friends and family members. It is called the Human Robot Cycle. This model has four phases and operate in a cyclical and predictable fashion. The phases are: The State of equilibrium, Obsessive Computer Use Persons, Burn Out person, and the Post-burned out phase. Let me explain.

Every person is born in the state of equilibrium because human beings are not exposed to smartphones in the womb while gestation. As we get acquainted with technological innovations and are consequently given smartphone access in order to satisfy our contemporary technological needs, people unconsciously experience what I call a “process of transformation” which is the first transitory stage of the cycle. In this intermediary state, human beings aren’t in equilibrium but aren’t in the obsessive computer use persons phase either. I would ague that a person living in the state is engaging in true techno moderation since the person is using as much technology as they ae putting technology away, for the most part.

The danger is to eventually develop an obsession with smartphones, Pads and video games. With time, people eventually reach the “Obsessive Computer Use Persons” stage which is the first deep level of human disequilibrium. As more technology is infused in our lives, we pass through what I call “the human robot syndrome” period where we become even more obsessed with computer use which leads us to behave literally like how a machine would. Examples of these behaviors include a tireless call for immediacy, multi-tasking, and production. People are always doing something — chatting with their friends on Facebook while at dinner, updating their Instagram accounts while in class, broadcasting their life events on youtube live while driving to work, you name it. 

Eventually, after more exposure and frequency of computer use, people reach the “Burn Out person” or the colloquially spoken the Robotic Stage. The moment you reach this second phase, technology is the least thing you want to see in front of you. An intervention then needs to take place in order for you in order for you to regain your humanity. I call the stage “the human reversal.” Eventually, you will reach the “Post-burned out phase” where computerized devices use is minimal. The goal of the post-burned out phase is to bring people back to the equilibrium (first phase) stage where things are just fine and dandy. Typically, individuals who are in this stage would purposely use technology minimally as a means to retrain one’s body to the dangers of technology. The cycle never stops and keeps repeating itself throughout the subjects whole life. 

The Human Robot Cycle isn’t sexist or ethnocentric. Gender and nationality seems to have little to no impact on how people interact with their machine. Regardless of cultural background or nationality, tech addiction is impacting your lives maybe for the worse.  Eye sight issues, stress and anxiety due to the excessive use of smartphones in our society is a real problem. We need to be aware of that. Using a smartphone to record somebody’s death at their own expense seems immature and dangerous in our society these days. It is only by better understanding the Human Robot cycle that we finally understand where we all belong in the continuum.

Productivity Over Consumption

Ladies and gentleman, there is a big difference between documenting your life in social media and being addicted to smartphones. Just because one is broadcasting content live on facebook doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is constantly scrolling or wasting time for hours on end on facebook. In fact, quite the contrary is often true! If you broadcast your life on instagram, meaning, you put a camera in front of you and start talking to your audience, you will be engaging in what I like to call TechnoModeration! Why? Well, this is what this article is all about! Fasten your seat belts and stay with me. This ride will be awesome.

All right. Let’s start from the top. Social media presence isn’t the same thing as social media addiction or anything addiction. Being present on social media platforms is a strategy that many of us, me included, do. If you are a part of the American economy today, you better be on social media and everywhere. Why? Because if you don’t you become invisible. You, me, and the whole Tennessee Titans fan base are being bombarded everyday with thousands of messages in multiple channels throughout the day. How can anybody get any attention to what they do under such hard circumstances? Gary Vaynerchuck, CEO of Vayner Media, has made a public statement — He said the following, “Attention is a currency” I agree with him.

Notice that I’m not saying that you should be engaging for hours on end everyday or spend hours scrolling your friends’ content on snapchat. Putting a camera in front of you and sharing what you think or do on a daily basis, multiple times a day, may be the right thing to do these days — if your goal is to be discovered by someone in your niche or if you are planning to build a loyal audience to consume your content.

In trueness, what I’m saying in here isn’t anything new. We have been engaging in personal brand development and using business development tactics and procedures for years in order to be visible before the age of social media networks. The difference is that today, it costs us a fraction of the price to do the work. I spend around an hour a day on social media engaging with my audience. However, I turn the camera on and talk to my audience for an additional half hour or so live. By live I mean live. I spend zero hours editing anything I share.

You don’t have to be on your smartphone all the time to be visible these days. You can TechnoModerate! I most definitely do, even though some people may think I’m always engaging. Well, I’m not! Question? If I was always engaging with with my audience for 7 hours each day, how in the world would I have time to be a full time college professor? Elementary, right? Yep.

Now, I maximize the use of AI in order to help me to be away from the computer so that I have more time to literally produce content at scale — Macro content as we refer to it in the field of communication. And from that, I can then repurpose more content in micro form in order to feed the content monster that is required for success in the media these days. Now, don’t take me wrong. It is still a lot of work but it isn’t that much computer work as you may think. There is a large degree of interpersonal and mediated communication work that I do but these activities aren’t social media heavy. They are communication heavy!

I will be documenting my life online indefinitely because my goal right now is to build a more loyal audience organically. By organically I mean for free naturally. If your grandkid wants to position him/herself in the world today they better consider doing what I wrote in this article rather than spending hours on end “consuming” social media. They need to be “producing” social media, instead.  A person broadcasting their life online may sound goofy for many of you to hear but its the correct protocol for anyone wanting to build an audience today.