When I was 24, my Facebook profile would often display ads on the side, asking me, “24 and single?” (I wasn’t) and encouraging me to CLICK HERE for “hot, Christian singles,” in order to solve my (nonexistent) problem. On the link was a photo of three women who belonged in Playboy.
On my 25th birthday, that same ad appeared. Only this time it asked me, “25 and single?” (I still wasn’t) and displayed the three Playboy girls. Such is modern life.
By clicking on all my tabs, I can tell that Facebook believes:
- I drink coffee (yes)
- I am attending this year’s Kentucky Derby (yes)
- I am an environmentalist (no)
- I would like a job in the technology field (yes, but also no)
- I would derive ironic pleasure from owning Sex Panther cologne (yes)
I am interested in how smart I am compared to celebrities (yes, but also no)*
*One day it displayed an ad suggesting that Barack Obama’s IQ was 125. That’s a good IQ, I suppose (the average is 100). But, unless you live in Missouri, you probably know a lot of people with a higher IQ than 125. And I’m guessing that if you happen to know Barack Obama, he is one of them. I doubt his IQ is within 10 points of Akon’s (117, according to the ad).
And now, a terrible seque, or, not a seque at all:
Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and is generally awesome by almost any definition other than that of NBA Commissioner David Stern. Today on Twitter, Cuban argues the following: “The lessons of twitter, facebook and social networks..The Medium is No Longer the Message. The Network defines the message.”
I see what he’s saying, here, and I’m not sure if I agree or not. I think he’s saying that Marshall McLuhan’s assertion that “the medium is the message” (1964) is not specific enough anymore, i.e. that while Twitter, Facebook and other networks share the same medium (the Internet), they don’t share the same effect on the experience of the user.
I agree that the Internet is too versatile to be viewed as just one medium. That would be like saying paper is its own medium, only even more ridiculous than that. The way a user experiences a newspaper’s Web site is totally different than the way a user experiences Facebook or Twitter, for example. But the differences in the way users experience Facebook and Twitter are, in my opinion, negligible. So, if he’s breaking down each network as its own medium (I can’t tell if he is), I disagree.
Anyway, I think the difference (speaking only of the Internet, here) lies primarily in the difference between broadcasting and narrowcasting. Newspapers are broadcasters. They construct a product for everybody within a certain geographical area and put it out there for all of those people, which, by itself, has not proven to be a particularly profitable way for specific content to reach the people who would most likely be interested in it. That’s where the narrowcasters — Twitter, Facebook, message boards, etc. — come in, albeit with one important disconnect: The narrowcasters are the ones who know your age, religion, how you entertain yourself and what kind of girls you like (Playmates, who happen to be Christian/Muslim/Secular Humanist/whatever you are), and they’re the ones selling corresponding advertisements.
The content producers (broadcasters) are the farmers. The narrowcasters are the grocery stores, and they’re making all the money selling tabloids and Toblerone in the checkout isle. I have no idea how to change this or even, philosophically, if it should change, although for self-serving reasons I wish it would.
And that only speaks to the advertising. What people tweet and post on your Facebook wall is an even more effective narrowcast. These are people who know you intimately. That relationship, and the medium by which it is expressed, absolutely affects the message. The message is secondary*.
*Which is part of the reason you should not form, develop or end relationships via text message. Modern man has no less effective medium for conveying feelings than the text message.
So I’m going to end this stream of consciousness with two thoughts:
1) I did not sit down planning to write about Marshall McLuhan or Mark Cuban or anything of the kind. I’m sorry. It just kind of happened.
2) By all means, post this blog on somebody’s Facebook wall.