“You’ll be glad tomorrow…you smoked Philip Morris today!” The Cigarettes of 2020…

April 28, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

Marc Benioff co-CEO of Salesforce and co-owner of TIME magazine said it best, “Facebook is the new cigarettes. It should be regulated.” And he said that in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing.  I’m really not concerned about the regulated part as much as the cigarettes part, plus I might add all of social media to Mr. Benioff’s comparison:  today’s social media is the cigarettes of the 1950s.

So for those of you who are too young to remember the fifties and all the movies and television programs where all the “cool” people smoked, the ads for cigarettes from that era promised users good health, good digestion, and good flavor.  Cigarettes back then were good for you, so said the manufacturers anyway . You smoke today and you will thank the cigarette manufacturer tomorrow, the ads stated.

In this age of social distancing  that we now find ourselves living in, social media has become our only window to the outside world. So what are we to expect from an audience if we combine the stay at home orders and social media?  Well, before I answer that question, read what researchers have found in 2018.  That was the time our social distancing was an option and not a must.  The Australian website CBHS Health Fund quotes a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Researchers “found that when people reduced their use of social media to just 30 minutes a day (spread across three platforms), their overall mental wellbeing improved. This study found that feelings of depression and loneliness in particular declined.” Keep in mind that was the time we were staying at least eight hours less outside the home as we are doing today.

Move forward to 2020 and the Neuro-Central website tells us in an article written by Sharon Salt, its senior editor, “Constant updates about coronavirus, especially those concerning confirmed cases and the number of deaths to date, can be extremely overwhelming and feel relentless. Moreover, rumors and speculation can add fuel to anxiety, which is why obtaining good quality information is so important.”

In the midst of this doom and gloom, social media combined with the so-called 24-hour news cycle is leading to more depression and more suicide according to Mike Ragsdale, CEO of 30A company and publisher of the new magazine Beach Happy.

“When I was growing up the news that we were consuming had to be bundled within 22 minutes of time. And if it didn’t make that cut, then you never heard about it. But now we hear about every single awful thing because we’re in a 24/7 news cycle. And not just that, we have pushup notifications and breaking news alerts, so we hear every awful thing that happens.” Ragsdale said.

Since the dawn of cable television late in the 1970s and the introduction of 24-hour channels with no turn off switches, followed in the 1990s and beyond with the explosion of news channels and social media outlets, people have become accustomed to “breaking news.”  Some thought that was the democratization of the media and the making of everyone into a publisher… instead we now have the law of the jungle, with no gatekeepers or editors etc.

Too much information leads to less comprehension and less impact.  It desensitizes the audience in a way that they tune in and tune out and hear exactly what they want to hear.

More than ever, we need to hit the brakes on the dissemination of the shotgun information delivery and get back to the laser targeted news that was delivered in less time with more information that was curated and fact-checked before it was delivered.

Between the delivery, whether from presidential press conferences to comments of the sane and insane alike on social media, we are moving with the speed of a bullet, fast and furious, to destroy the social fabric (some say we already have) of our society and drive a bigger wedge between the people, among themselves and among their authority figures.

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle, while they claim to be keeping us connected, they are  in fact creating the biggest divide ever and the biggest threat to our democracy and freedom of the press.

So to paraphrase the cigarette ads of the 1950s, “You will be glad tomorrow that you hopped on our social media platforms, turned on our 24-hours news channels today.”

But will you, really?

To sum it up, would you please let me know how many people today are thanking the cigarette companies?

I rest my case. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to welcome the stack of magazines that just arrived on my doorsteps via Fed Ex.  Credible and trustworthy journalism awaits. There are good times ahead. Count on it!

One comment

  1. […] to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, Benioff said those words in 2019, well before the pandemic and accompanying political divisiveness […]

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