For all that technology is doing to make our lives better, it’s also making us miserable — because we’re collectively spending most of the day staring at screens.
“The scientific community is pretty much in unanimous agreement right now that as humans we’ve never been more depressed, we’ve never been more anxious, and we’ve never been more distracted than we are right now as people,” says Rachel Lowenstein, Associate Director of Invention+ at Mindshare. “And they attribute that in large part due to the amount of time we spend on our phones every day — because we are addicted to our phones.”
But there’s a potential solution: a world where sound gains primacy in our media consumption.
“So when [the British new wave group] Buggles in 1979 sang ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’ I think that they turned out to be emphatically wrong,” Lowenstein says. “Because as more and more consumers are trying to find ways to disconnect, they’re not running away from media and technology. They’re just getting away from their screens. And what does audio do, but allows you to get away from your screens, and spend less time in front of them [and instead] put on your headphones and just interact with the world around you.”
Lowenstein’s remarks came Tuesday during a presentation entitled “Media Dystopia: Sound as the Savior,” a segment of the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) half-day webinar “The State of Audio Today.”
As part of her presentation, Lowenstein cited an array of developments that suggest the proliferation of audio is more than just a passing fancy: the acquisitions of podcasting companies by bigger players in the audio space; the steady creation of audio companies by high-profile writers like Malcolm Gladwell; and, most important of all, the success of smart speakers.
“If you ask smart-speaker owners, ‘Why do you like your device?’ the number one answer that they give is because it untethers them from their screens,” she explains. “… And if you think about audio, it is the medium that’s most intuitive to humans. Things like reading and writing have only been around for about 5 percent of modern human history. Things like video, obviously, just in the last hundred years. What have we always been able to do as humans but listen and tell stories and talk to each other, which is what podcasting is all about.”
There’s also a financial component at play. Lowenstein notes that ad-supported podcasts are the last frontier for free, high-quality content on the internet.
So what’s the ultimate result? Try a post-screen future in which audio becomes the dominant source of media consumption.
If Lowenstein’s remarks sound a bit hyperbolic and provocative, it’s because they’re meant to be. The “Media Dystopia” episodic series, inspired by the Netflix series “Black Mirror,” is a Mindshare production that takes current tech and cultural trends and plays them out to their most extreme — and often frightening — conclusions. So no, Lowenstein isn’t actually predicting the future. Rather, she’s simply laying out the possibilities.