Archives for posts with tag: neil postman


I’m a big believer in Neil Postman’s premise that we’re amusing ourselves to death. The masses are appeased by spectacles and don’t seriously discuss things like budget deficits, our role in the world, environmental challenges. The worst part of this idea of panem et circenses is sports. People can talk for days about meaningless games that do nothing to elevate us as a society or make this world a better place.

The worst time of the year in sports is the NFL draft. The proliferation of statistics has led to a secret society of stats and meaningless data. You have the Wonderlic TestThe 40 yard Combine dash. And all this data stuff lead teams to pick Tom Brady in the 6th round. Right after Giovanni Carmazzi, Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn.

The same adulation has taken over our industry, and, yes, our clients. We make sure to forget about our gut reaction. Looking at data is our initial response to anything. We have metrics but they are most often completely meaningless. In the advertising industry, the only metrics that should count is: “Would I show this with pride to my wife/friends/family?”

While the whole sports world is going nuts on stats and data, whenever you look at a winning team there’s always this little thing we call “heart”. The Los Angeles Dodgers of 1986 had heart, Kirk Gibson the biggest. The 1980 US hockey team had heart.


Where is yours?


Seth Godin has been pouncing on this for a while: Focus on output, don’t bother with silliness, rather ship it.

It’s an important thought.

26 years ago, Neil Postman wrote “Amusing ourselves to death”. It wasn’t that easy in 1984 but you have to work hard not to amuse yourself to death in 2011. It has become amazingly easy to get input. The channel options are unlimited. I could easily stay on the couch all day and watch my Twitter stream go by, always finding new things to discover, new videos to watch, new posts to read. It appeases your brain. Well, at least you didn’t watch TV. You did something. Connected with the world. Shared ideas.

No, you didn’t.

You just amused yourself. Faking real engagement. Faking real work.

It’s easy to retweet a post. Or leave snarky comments. It’s hard to develop your own ideas and share them with the world. It’s hard to have a point of view and leave yourself open to criticism. Just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re doing anything worthwhile.

There’s a time and place for both. Make sure the entertainment part doesn’t take over your life.