What Form of Video Best Addresses Phone Addiction & Isolation?

We all know the basic message: “put down your phone” “talk to a real person,” and “pay attention.” And we’ve probably all noticed the irony of people use social media to post videos that contain these messages and warn about  the dangers of social media.

As I’ve been watching these, I noticed that some struck me as quite powerful while others as predictable and even boring. Why is this? Is there a simple reason why some of these videos more effective than others? Why do some make us stop for a moment, but others are easy to dismiss?

Below is a small sample of a few of these videos representing the various ways they use video: direct speaking messages, some use infographics, and some are wordless stories. Watch them, and see which you think are most powerful.

Look Up (4:59) – Lyrical Presentation

The second half has a heart-tugging story element with a strong A/B storyline. It felt a little long and a tad predictable, but the lyrical style kept me interested.

Innovation of Lonelineness (4:20) – Infographics

The animations and graphics on this video are incredibly well done. They kept me watching even when I felt like the message was too strong and one-sided.

I Forgot My Phone (2:10) – Wordless Story

I think this video is the most powerful, because it was short, it told a story, and it avoided an omniscient narrator. To me, this made the message clearer and the emotional impact deeper.

Video as a Visual Medium

I appreciate each of these videos and want to thank the creators of each for their hard work. But I think the reason the final video seemed most powerful to me was that it uses video as a purely visual medium and communicates through images rather than propositions.

In the first two videos, the narrator tells the story, and he tells you what to think about the story. That means the visuals are secondary. The images, video, and graphics are only a supporting element to the statements the speaker is making. But if you didn’t have those statements, you’d still get mostly the same message. [tweetable]In the final video, everything essential is communicated visually, through the main characters eyes[/tweetable].

Even when there is a particularly powerful visual element in the first two videos, the narrator breaks in with statements and propositions, forcing your brain to enter into a more logical mode and making the video secondary. I think this is why the narrators chose a lyrical presentation rather than a more direct style of speech, because they intuited that they needed something more compelling that direct propositions.

And yet, I think [tweetable]the final video is still more powerful because the message is communicated entirely without words[/tweetable]. The power of that video is derived solely from its visuals, and the audio is secondary and supportive rather than the other way around.

Let me know if there are videos you find more or less powerful and how the medium itself contributes to that power (or lack thereof).

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

8 thoughts on “What Form of Video Best Addresses Phone Addiction & Isolation?”

  1. A bit besides your point, but one of the things that gets me about all these videos (and much of this genre of lament) is that it almost always overlooks what social media is actually good at — overcoming physical distance, weak ties, ambient awareness.

    For example, it allows us to include friends and family members, with whom we might be separated by physical distance or even just circumstance, into our daily lives in a peripheral way. This is no substitute for meaningful in person interaction (something that social media — especially proprietary social media — is pretty bad at), but it often provides the context that supports this. For example, in catching up with a friend from another city, we hadn’t spoken in months but knew some details of each other’s lives, which provided the basis and starting point for the more meaningful interaction. It’d be harder to stay in touch if all we had was the in person catch ups every several months, but the light interaction of social media helps to reduce the physical distance a little bit.

    That’s beside your main point… but besides using video to lament the social awardness of the transitional technology of handheld computing (maybe in between desktop and wearables), I could picture some kind of video, say, seeing updates on a friend’s kids as they’re growing, sharing some moments with them on special occasionals like birthdays via a message or IM or video chat, and then hoping on a train/plane and showing the excitement of an in-person reunion, the recognition despite distance, etc.


    1. Blaise,
      I totally agree that these video miss the good of social media. That’s part of what makes the narrators less helpful to me. The visual only one seems to do a better job of making a single point without also over-stating the problem.

      1. Good point about the narrators tending to overstate the problem, versus the visual depiction presnting it more as it is (at least in the case of the video you posted).

  2. I agree the visual is the most powerful and I think it’s partly because it’s actually visual senses that are the most ‘lost’ when we’re absorbed in our devices. (Eye contact, beauty around us etc). Standing back as it were and watching these videos it’s plainly obvious.

    My fav is this video, which I like because it’s really simple, makes the point in a very short space of time and is made by a mobile company!

    1. Sam,
      What a great video further illustrating John’s point. Simple and succinct.
      I also believe that the soundtrack adds power to the wordless message communicated. Like the first video of John’s (with lyrical style), it has a ‘what-if-I-do, what-if-I-don’t’ storyline thus reinforcing the message.
      However I like that John’s third video (wordless) doesn’t fully connect the dots for me. It presents the situation and forces me to think. It continues to cycle through my mind more than the simple ‘Black & White’ presentation of the Thai mobile advertisement.
      Great post John. Thanks!

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