During the summer break this year, I decided to use the time off to trial life without having access to my phone 24/7. (I mean when I backpacked around Europe we used a guide book and relied on pay phones. Seriously, how hard could it be?).
Short answer is this: It was seriously hard.
But not because I wasn’t able to stay connected. It was actually hard because I didn’t have an alternative camera. (Because when you’re not staring at a phone, you’re actually staring at the world – and that’s when you need the camera). Once I got that sorted, it was pretty nice actually. But this isn’t a pitch for an off-grid lifestyle. This is about what happened when I came back to work.
I returned to CC inspired by my experience and determined to lead an agency that could make a positive difference to what and how we engage with digital content and screen time. If people were going to spend hours staring at their phones (and there wasn’t much I or anyone else I knew could do to change that), then we could at least try and make that experience better – at least worthy of the attention.
Back in the office, we talked about this a lot. We worked together to see if we could come up with different and better ways to engage with content. Onscreen content is a fact of life. But we can always get better at connecting people with content that is going to help them, educate them and inspire them. But we have to do that in a way that is better and more meaningful for us, and better and more meaningful for our clients.
How can we be better content producers?
- We could focus our efforts on creating content that doesn’t erode concentration spans – but extends them. Content designed to make people think about what they’ve seen/read/listened to, long after they’ve left the screen.
- We can question the value and purpose of every piece of content we make. How is this adding value to the customer or audience? We can help our clients move from more is more to better is more.
- We can create content relating to our industry that improves digital lives – helping us build better habits, focus on meaningful content experiences and not steal precious moments out of our life and use it on attention-sucking content of little help or consequence. We can avoid creating content filled with links and links and links that take us down a digital rabbit hole. It’s like the written version of auto play – and I’m not sure it’s helping people to hold on to that thought.
- We can encourage our clients (and our agency) to focus on creating content that is a pleasure to engage with on a larger screen and in a native environment. Away from social media.
- We can educate our clients to broaden their content mix to include new forms of content that are not screen reliant. Screen shut/phone-in-pocket content experiences – like audio learning. Could we teach people to be better listeners through audio content?
- We could acknowledge and accept that social media platforms are turning us into a bunch of addicts and create content experiences that thrive outside of this ecosystem.
- We can challenge ourselves to post less and still grow our reach
Hey we’re not alone in thinking like this!
People are beginning to understand the marked changes in their behaviour brought on primarily by social media. That was my big learning from my summer experiment – being able to distinguish my behaviour when I was on vs off social media (eyes wide open sums it up nicely). But bad habits are hard to break. People like me who work in the digital content industry need to help our clients understand not everything needs a hashtag and that it’s good for everyone if we rally against the eight-second attention span.