Phatic culture and the Media

Vincent Miller has studied how the role of information has changed in recent times. In the past public data was part of private discussion, but nowadays the situation has changed: private information is being discussed at a public level.

Thus, Miller has focused on the phatic culture. That is, how irrelevant information has become important. This phenomenon has been impulsed by social networks, which raise personal anecdotes to relevant news. Next to this fact we find a new concept which Miller calls “voyeurism”; in other words, there are people who have a profile on any social network just to see what the rest post. In this sense, it is outstanding that people do have a compulsive need to show off what they do and they are constantly posting where they are.

This attitude provokes that many information that is consumed is, consequently, banal or “phatic”. Perhaps you ask your neighbour which is the capital of Finland and he does not know the answer, but he does know that his neighbour was drinking a mojito next to the beach two hours ago. The question is, does this kind of information make society lose interest on the topics that the media cover? Does this provoke that people do not read traditional newspapers?

To all these facts related to social Networks or the blogosphere, we should add that there is an emergent individualism, which is similarly compensated for an increasing number of relationships based just on being friends on the net. While individualism raises, your number of friends on Facebook increases as well. With the creation of profiles on the Internet, in which what matters is just the number of friends you have, the message loses importance.

Moreover, human relationships, according to Miller, are marked by the use of human beings as “communicative bodies”. In this sense, do you have a profile because you need it or just because you have been ‘forced’ to do it? Depending on your answer, you will see whether you take part on social networks because you want or because all your friends have a profile. It is possible that you have a profile on a social network just because, otherwise, you would not receive the information your friends post and would not interact with them in the same way they do. In other words, you would be a freak, just the same as if you did not have a mobile phone.

Precisely because the importance of phatic communication is nowadays a mystery for society, the media should take the way social networks and the blogosphere rule into account in order to get to readers in an efficient way. The way we communicate has changed and the mass media should study it to know how to attract people and try to engage society to take interest in public affairs and not in irrelevant information.

Àngels Mulet

Trainee student at Signe Words