There were many things about last year’s US Presidential Election that were unprecedented or at least very interesting.
Besides Trumps affinity for Batman references, one of the most interesting developments was the way in which the Trump administration used Facebook as a key part of their election campaign. Yet founder, Mark Zuckerberg still argues that saying Facebook had an influence on the election results is a “crazy idea“.
So why do we not understand the true impact of Facebook?
“The Medium is the Message” – Marshall McLuhan
It’s a purposefully confusing statement. According to McLuhan the “medium” is really another word for anything that is an extension of ourselves. So a knife is an extension of an arm, a Justin Beiber t-shirt is an extension of our sense of social identity (or bad taste).
While the “message” is defined as “the change of scale or pace or pattern” that is caused as a result of a new medium. This refers to the changes a medium brings to our social context. So the message of a Game of Thrones episode is not the endless amounts of blood and sex that is shown on TV, but perhaps the change in your understanding of whether a person can only be good or evil.
So when McLuhan states that “The medium is the message”, what he’s really trying to say is that the very nature of anything we create can cause unnoticed changes in both our personal experience and the world around us.
Back to Facebook
Facebook is a perfect example of how a change in mediums can change the way we interact with each other. Although originally intended as a Harvard social-networking website this platform is now quickly becoming for many people the preferred method of keeping up to date with news.
Although an unexpected consequence this has become a concern for many – as seen during the previous US Election. As said by Mark Federman, “noticing change in our societal or cultural ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium.”