Why we're all going insane. – or – A brief history of visual media.

There's an ad for an antidepressant/anxiety pill ever .003 seconds on television nowadays and I asked myself why. While I understand we are under greater pressure in our jobs and relationships than ever before, I also blame the amount of media that we consume. Let's review the past few million years:

4.54 Billion Years Ago

While television  was not around when volcano's and plate tectonics shaped the earth, we still would have a need for visual feedback. So I have to give this era a leg up on the Discovery Channel as you where outdoors all the time, things were very simple and everything was in HD.

150 Million Years Ago

Visual programming of this era was far more exciting mainly because if what you were watching caught up to you, you were often eaten alive – serpentine!!!

50,000 Years Ago

Ahh, fire. Fire is timeless visual programming at its finest. Even today people tune in, advertising free, an worship its endless array of shapes, and color. Let's not forget fire's ability to heat, cook food and thwart of cave creatures – albeit temporarily.

800-300 (And Some Change) Years Ago

Here's were it all goes to pot. You start bringing in your visual media (fire, art, thinking) into the home. DAMN THE CONTROLLED FIRE DEVICE! This bore the need to construct more shit to do indoors and therefore limiting our once unbridled outdoor imaginations.

15-18th Century: The Birth of Pay-Per-View

Here's your 'reality TV' public execution style. "What say you to taking the kids into the town square to see some witches get their what for!" Well you're going to have to do something now that you feel compelled to stay inside and stare at controlled fire. Ahhh, good times. And if you did this frequently enough you might feel compelled to bring a book, whisper to a friend or simply stone the convicted on their way in.

100 Year Ago

The radio was the beginning of the multi-modal. While "listening" to the radio one's thoughts were free to do other tasks, like knitting or petting domesticated animals. BUT! you couldn't leave the confines of the home that contains the magic devil box can you? Not knowing what the Lil' Abner or the score to the baseball game could get you endless ridicule at the water cooler on Monday. Less thinking, more subservience – release the advertising plague! I mean "industry!"

50+ Years Ago

You guessed it "the magic box" is drop into the spiral to insanity. We didn't even have a chance, as we got to our radio heros come to life. But something happened in this magic hour. Our media digestion rate began to accelerate at a break neck speed.

And then you blink to: Current Day

There's no more asking whether you want the content – you get. It's poured into every nook and cranny that it can fit. All the while you answer cell phone calls, twitter, listen to your iPod and rank your opinions online simultaneously. Human sanity was originally constructed to look at fire (see above) and that's about it. You're timeline is speeding up, while your media digestion rate is rapidly gagging even the savviest of users. Where will it end? What is the saturation standpoint? What will be the breaking point, and who will benefit when we fall? Answering these questions are as important to the future of advertising as is creating great messaging.


Posted on May 22, 2009 and filed under Soapbox.