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More Than Ever, the Medium Is the Message


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You were dumped in two different ways, by text and in person. Although similar sentiments may have been expressed in both cases, the context will likely change your feelings and how you remember the relationship.

This example begins getting at what media philosopher Marshall McLuhan intended when he said, “The medium IS the message.”

We usually think of content when we consider the message in a communication. McLuhan, however, argued that the character of a communication can be just as important as its content. It is not what’s said but how it is said that matters. The medium can be as influential as the message itself.

A message’s character can change minds as easily as its content. McLuhan defined a medium’s message as “a change of scale, pace, or pattern” that it introduces into human affairs. The nature of communication media changes how we think, act, and behave, with second- and third-order social, psychological, religious, and other effects. We often consider communication technology to be neutral. However, this is not the case. It has a profound impact on individual psyches as well as collective culture.

It makes sense, when you consider how digital communication, which is often in the form of small, varied nuggets, that are always on, has fragmented our attention spans, and changed the pace and pattern of our habits. Social media doesn’t say “Don’t spend as much time reading” or “Be distracted while talking to someone.” But the medium conveys that message and we’ve absorbed it.

Modern media are characterized by a rapid-fire, shortened format that affects our rhythms in both the real world and the cognitive one. It also impacts the importance we give to its content.

Neil Postman, media theorist, noted in Amusing Ourselves To Death that the average length of a news story was 45 seconds. He also observed that while brevity doesn’t always imply triviality, it does in this instance. In order to convey the seriousness of an event, its implications cannot be exhausted in under one minute. Similarly, we subconsciously feel that anything that is conveyed through a 60 second TikTok or short tweet must not be very important.

But arguably the most significance-draining aspect of the medium of modern media is the way that each piece of context-less content is sandwiched between other context-less and entirely unconnected pieces of content.

Postman claimed that the phrase “now…this” is one of the most frightening phrases in the English language. Postman was referring again to news broadcasts and how the phrase allows the newscasters abruptly switch between two stories that are completely unrelated, such as “The missile attack killed over 100 civilians.” Now, this. “A koala was born in the zoo!”

Postman said that “the phrase is meant to acknowledge the fact the the world as it is depicted by the accelerated electronic media is devoid of meaning or order and should not be taken seriously.”

In the modern age, this “now…this” phenomenon is only intensifying. You scroll through your social media feed and see a video of a funny sports accident, then someone cooking nachos, someone explaining a Bible passage, someone exercising, someone giving relationship advice, and finally a car wreck.

Social media, because it presents these things all on the same plane, gives them equal importance. There is a great flattening. The loftier content doesn’t rise to the level of the baser, but the baser is brought to the loftier. All content feels as though it is of equal weight. . . Then, everything starts to seem trivial. All things start to appear trivial. All things start to seem the same.

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/podcast-984-why-your-memory-seems-bad-its-not-just-age/

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Podcast #984: Why Your Memory Seems Bad (It’s Not Just Age)

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You can’t recall what you were looking for when you walk into another room of your home. You may forget an appointment, or you might have trouble remembering someone’s name.

These memory lapses may be attributed to aging. Age can play a part in memory loss. As my guest will explain, there are also other factors involved.

Charan Ranganath, a neuroscientist and psychologist, is the author of Why We Remember – Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters. Charan Ranganath explains on today’s show how factors such as how we direct attention, how we take photos and how we move through “event boundary” affect our memory. He also explains how our context in life can influence which memories we are able to recall. We discuss how you can reverse-engineer these factors in order to improve your memory.

Podcast Resources

AoM Article: 10 Ways to Improve Your MemoryAoM Podcast #546: How to Get a Memory Like a Steel TrapAoM Podcast #750: The Surprising Benefits of ForgettingReminiscence bump

Connect With Charan Ranganath

Charan’s Faculty PageCharan’s WebsiteCharan on IG


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Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/skill-of-the-week-survive-a-fall-onto-subway-tracks/

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Skill of the Week: Survive a Fall Onto Subway Tracks

A man’s ability to adapt to any situation is an important part of his masculinity. We’ll be republishing an illustrated guide from our archive every Sunday so that you can improve your manly knowledge week by week.

The underground platform of a subway is the most dangerous place to fall. A fall onto the tracks of a subway is dangerous because it can be difficult to escape on your own. The steep, high walls make it difficult for the average person to escape the tracks in time before the next train arrives. Because subway systems were built to serve a single purpose, they don’t include a lot extra space in the tunnels. Subway cars are able to pass through tracks with only a few inches of clearance. What should you do if you fall or are pushed onto the tracks? To survive, use the tips listed above.

You like this illustrated guide? You’ll love our book The Illustrated Art of Manliness. Get your copy at Amazon.

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