Media, Culture, and Evolution

I had an sort of an interesting moment this weekend. While screwing around on the Internet, I happened upon this clip , (go ahead, watch it).

Sort of funny, right? Well I LOL’d, but then I started to wonder, could this video be a fake? Without really realizing it, I found myself dissecting the clip looking for deeper meaning – it looks older, so maybe it predates Internet pratfalls…but the grainy flim technique wreaks of post-production…but the guy does start screaming quite quickly and somewhat naturally…but maybe it’s a comedian and this is a stunt.

Whether the video is real or not isn’t the point. I realized that I was trying to figure out if the video was fake because its authenticity would determine whether or not i would share that video. (Meanwhile determining the clips authenticity was also some sort of odd meta puzzle in itself. If the clip is real, i’ve found internet gold. If its a fake and i share it, I’ve been duped making me the fool.

Why, I feel this way i really don’t know. What interesting to me is that this is an evolved reaction. Had I seen this clip 5 years ago, I would have probably emailed it to half my friends, dishing out a cheap laugh over email. But since i couldn’t decide if it was real, I couldn’t send it.

It dawned on me that viral videos have changed how we consume online content. If we think someone has created something that only intends to trick us into spreading the idea to our network, we may actually not share it…which is the exact opposite effect the creators hoped for. Here’s the root of it. If we’re manipulated into sharing something, somehow we’re saying to our inner circle that we aren’t quick enough to recognize a fake. We care about authenticity because we don’t want to be tricked and we don’t want to trick our friends. This act of filtering/curating is a form of self-actualization – you don’t want to be associated with a fake.

All this made me wonder if it will become more difficult for media to be deemed share-worthy because authenticity and intention matter more and more as we build online identities. We’re in the early days of this movement, but this is playing out very rapidly. As our online identities continue to be more and more important to us, we will redefine what’s acceptable to share. Viral content as we know it now may become quickly become passé.

I started to wonder if this self-editing phenomenon effects how we create media. Sharing is still happening, but the tricking people into spreading seems to be dangerous territory for your brand. Take this Domino’s video from CP+B. The video starts as a full-on, unflinching Christopher Guest lampoon of a pizza photo shoot. It driving straight for prime 2005 viral territory. Then, about hallway through the video a protagonist chef emerges to lead us away from the lampoon and toward the core message – ‘Dominos is the real deal, we don’t need a fancy photo shoot.’ This seems like an evolution of the style; teasing with the lampoon, but pulling back curtain before the joke finishes. The spot’s well done, but I keep wondering if it were only five years ago, would the spot have just been one solid lampoon that wanted to ‘go viral’?

In a very short span of time, i think we’re getting really good at rapidly adapting to the media we consume. Much of this seems driven by our own online identity – we are what we share. So this all sort of begs the question; does culture create the media, or does media create the culture?

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