Thursday, March 31, 2011

Real Social

What on the singular screen is real? Forget the existentialist angle here and just take a moment to look at your screen. With the birth of REALITY TV came the death of authenticity. There is no real.

Most people under 20 grew up watching all 16 (YES SIXTEEN) seasons of Survivor, 12 seasons of Big Brother and the nearly 10 years of America's search for an idol. America's penchant for video-taping trailor-trash and broadcasting it on the series COPS (1989) may have started it all but it has graduated. We used to see those social deviants get arrested. Now we see them get sponsorship deals and book deals and spin-offs and sequels. REAL deviant behaviour is rewarded.

After years of camera-in-your-face broadcasts and the ever-shrinking technologies we carry in our pockets we have created the "camera in perpetua".

Hey Andy Warhol, nice prediction but a more specific way to have put it is "In the future everyone will be famous because fame will become easy."

I have yet to find any real data regarding the impact RTV has on our culture but I can theorize.

It's killed fame on one hand but so what there's too much of that anyway. So let's say the good thing that came of RTV is "anyone can be famous so that makes the Tom Cruises of the world less famous". Kinda.

But a stranger impact of RTV is that it dulls our senses and regardless of how horrifying the content may be, we feel nothing. On one hand, we know what we see is untrue but, on the other, we are highly aware that we want to believe it's real and that we are allowing our suspension of disbelief to occur. Those are conflicting forces on the psyche and, as a culture, that has to have an impact on us.

What happens on Jersey Shore is not real. They are in front of a camera and the "characters" play up their own good and bad sides in order to gain popularity and ensure their place in the next season. Right? It's edited and somewhat prescriptive and, in that sense, unreal. Yes? But a highly charged argument at 6 AM after a night of heavy drinking cannot be saved by the omnipresence of the camera. That's real. The "scenes" between Sammi and Ronnie crossed the line and became "dangerous" on a number of occasions. These people need some serious help. Real help. They've lost control and even though we are watching it all happen, we don't accept that and it becomes just more entertainment. The ever present camera creates a dichotomy that numbs our common sense, our collective sense, our sense of reality.

These effects are compounded by the immediacy of web broadcasting. There are a plethora of insights we can gather from a film like We Live In Public but one thing is for certain. Something happens when we get lost in the world of voyeurism that we are becoming so fond of. We lose sight of the fact that what is happening on the screen is real and we lose the ability to respond.

As social marketing rears its head toward the use of more cameras to tell a story we need to ensure we maintain our integrity as advertisers otherwise, consumers will begin to doubt the validity of the message before they even engage with it and they will not respond. They might pass it to a friend and that might send your numbers through the roof and you can enter your work into an award show and brag about your trophy but it will do NOTHING to elevate the brand and you'll have to come up with something new every 8 months or so. Unless that brand is "The Situation" you don't want to be in a constant struggle trying to outdo yourself.

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