My line’s better than your line – when memes replace thought

(previously published in The Westsider)

Don’t you just love social media? It’s the 20-20 cricket of news – the quicker, abridged version – with cheerleaders, fireworks, and all the dreary research stripped back and replaced with photos and celebrity endorsements.

Details and facts are no longer a part of the equation, as our attention span diminishes and our need for speedier gratification increases. And memes? Well they’re the kings – snappy, clever, all-encompassing, final.

But what if you’re into exploring conversations, not shutting them down? Then you’re in the minority, working against the grain, an agitator in an era where we don’t want complicated rhetoric, just outrage, followed by agreement, and ultimately swift outcomes so we can move onto the next thing. It’s not surprising when you combine a lifestyle which we encourage to become busier daily, and a world that broadcasts at us 24-7 – one way communication like TV, billboards, radio, web search engines and social media, their content resembling advertising more and more each day. What’s left is pretty much advertorial by stealth, with no actual interaction until we buy the product – or at least register our desire for it – the first sign of our minority power.

So how do we counter a modern media used as a mechanism to create and reinforce desire? It’s going to be hard, believe it or not we receive the messages we’re either susceptible to or deserve, because marketing is customised and targeted for the individual (ever clicked ‘like’?) And what do we learn? Nothing new, we just confirm what we already know, suspect, or secretly hope is true.

That’s why serving The Westsider for the last 18 months has been such a breathe of fresh air. Its not just the smell of ink and the feel of paper between my fingers, but the fact that we invite discussion and want to hear the thoughts and ideas of others. So tell us what you think, by whatever means you’re able.

You can even tag us in a meme.

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When checking your facts can make a world of difference


A few months ago I wrote that we should all think before we type. In a nutshell it’s time to stop hiding behind the keyboard and relative anonymity of social media. We now live in a world where we all have access to publishing platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc), and an audience of varying sizes (friends, followers and fans), but we must take responsibility for what we post – and read. Journalists and traditional media outlets (mostly) check facts before publishing, so why shouldn’t the rest of us? Everything you post is “public and permanent”, so the same standards should apply..

Here’s a recent alarming example of the importance of fact checking. A Facebook ‘friend’ recently shared a post about a Northern Queensland Council that had apparently banned the hanging of Christmas lights this year because the local mosque had complained. At first glance I thought “yeah whatever”, quickly followed by “hmm, sounds fishy to me”. About 30 seconds of Google and it was clear this message was fake. A hoax that had been doing the rounds for a couple of years to incite hatred and encourage xenophobia. There wasn’t even a mosque in the town. I was going to just let this pass, like so much other crap we read, but then I thought; “No. If I don’t call the person out on this, I’m part of the problem.” So I did. The person was embarrassed, but it was too late, the lie was out there and shared with others, and as with all things said, true or not, some mud would stick. I then pointed out to the person that when you share content, you “own it now”. Its like picking up somebody else’s rubbish in the street – once it’s in your hand, it’s yours and you have to find a bin, you can’t just drop it back onto the ground. But by this stage the person was onto the next outrage, her post in tact, by now with comments from other ignorant people who hadn’t fact checked either – or bothered to read my reply.

On further investigation, I was horrified to discover that the original post had been shared 68,000 times! This lie had been shared with millions of people and acted as a conduit for hate and racism using many non-racists as its messengers – trusted friends, family and neighbours – thus adding to it’s apparent legitimacy with each act of passing and receiving. Were those people just too lazy to check their facts, or did the message prick something in the back of their minds that told them that such a hysterical post “sounded true so it must be true”. I sure hope it was the former, inherent laziness is easier to address than bigotry.

All is not lost however, the fact remains that the original story was not true, and Australia is probably a better place than what social media suggests it is.

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Beyond the broadcast

Communication is no one-way affair. No matter the medium, if you’re posting, pinning, providing information, or just plain old talking, you are not necessarily communicating – it’s possible you’re simply broadcasting.

Something to think about and be aware of in a world that’s so easy to broadcast to, but it takes planning and effort to understand, and gain from, two-way communication.

Website re-launch – April 2015broadcastIts taken a while but I hope you like the new web format. We’re going for a more content driven site, so watch this space for blogs and other info.

In a nutshell; just as we approach each new project with the aim of making it the best and most useful work we have produced to date, so too will be our approach to communications.

Speak soon


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