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Embracing Three New Megatrends in the Brave New World of Digital Media

Three New Megatrends

 in the Brave New World of Digital Media

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington    www.netkaup.is
October 18, 2012
     When we consider the ways technology is rapidly transforming the media landscape — and our lives — three trends stand out. The first is the seismic shift from presentation to participation. The second is the paradoxical shift from using technology to connect to also using technology to disconnect. And the third is the game-changing shift from using social media as a way to make our lives more fun to using social media to make the world better.

     The shift from presentation to participation means that the days of the Media Gods, sitting up on Mt. Olympus and telling us how things are, have long since ended. People are tired of being talked to; they want to be talked with. Ours is a global conversation, with millions of new people pulling up a seat at the table — indeed, nearly 3 billion people will join the Internet’s community by 2020, according to Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. That conversation has fueled revolutions and allowed media to engage with readers — and brands to engage with consumers — in totally new ways. The success of brands in the future will depend upon their understanding and embracing of this new relationship.
     So, if the first trend is a Garden of Eden blooming with engagement and self-expression, the second trendis the snake in the garden. For all the powerful tools at our disposal to bear witness and bring about change, there is also the temptation to fetishize the social and viral for their own sake. On a daily basis, I’m invited to media conferences filled with panels devoted to how we can use social tools to amplify our messages. But very few of those panels seem to care what is the message. As Thoreau said in 1854, “We are in great haste, to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”
Luckily there is a powerful, countervailing force using technology to get away from technology, reflected in apps and features like Freedom, Do Not Disturb, and HuffPost’s forthcoming GPS for the Soul. Of course, I realize there’s a paradox in the idea that, of all things, an app can help deliver us from the snake in the garden, but the snake is very wily, so our solutions have to be just as clever.
     The third trend is the shift from searching for information to searching for meaning. People are using technology to connect with others not just around similar passions and interests, but around the causes that most resonate with them. And the shift isn’t confined to individuals. More and more, brands are  identifying with a cause, and making that identification a central part of their ethos.
In the 1990s I wrote a book called The Fourth Instinct, which explored the instinct that takes us beyond our first three — our impulses for survival, sex, and power — and drives us to expand the boundaries of our caring to include our communities and the world around us. That instinct is now driving more and more of our choices — in terms of what we do, what we value, what we read, and what we buy. And technology has given us the ability to widen the circle of our concern.
So the future is hyper-connected — except when it is blissfully, joyously disconnected.  And an understanding of these three megatrends can guide us to a place where we are more creative, more effective, more compassionate, and more capable of making things better for ourselves, for our brands, and for the world.