Vicki McLeod.

Untrending: More wisdom from the inbox

‘The death of long-form writing.’

I’m a bit of a Chris Brogan fangirl. If you don’t know his work, you should. He’s a genius, although he would never say so himself.

A New York Times bestselling author of nine books and counting, he’s a journalist, speaker and strategist, and the CEO of Owner Media Group. He’s an eagle-eyed trend-watcher, and one of only a handful of modern marketing gurus I allow regular access to my email.

What I like about Brogan’s approach is that, despite his authority, he doesn’t proselytize. He seeks out useful information and presents an analysis and interpretation of it that is free of judgment, but big on insight.

Sometimes I find his observations alarming, as happened when the subject line of one of his missives announced the death of long-form writing. I give him lots of room, though, believing him to have a compassionate heart and a clear eye, traits I attribute to him based only on a brief conversation at a conference in Boston, Massachusetts, where we discovered a shared interest in the teachings of Buddhist, Pema Chodron. Such is the way that trust can bloom.

In his recent correspondence, titled “Notes from the Front Lines,” he draws our attention to recent emerging trends. He notes that “three of them point to somewhat more isolating human experiences (digisexuality, dining in, chatbots helping people with care needs who might otherwise be isolated). That is most definitely a trend.”

He then goes on to ask: “What can/will/must companies do to adjust to a world where people aren’t moving towards destinations as often as they’re bringing what they want to their doors?”

Much like my experience when I first read his take on of the demise of long-form writing, my heart starts to race, and my mouth goes a little dry.

“Wait,” cries my inner voice, “more isolating human experience?”

Despite my resistance to the message, Brogan is not wrong. These trends do point toward more isolationist social choices (is that an oxymoron?). What worries me is not so much what companies will do to adjust, although I admit that’s important if businesses are to remain relevant, but what we will do as flesh and blood humans to sustain a sense of connection to other humans?

Alongside these trends, we see the ever-increasing rise of siloed interest groups catering to narrow sets of opinions and perspectives, blatantly biased news networks, and an abundance of micro-niched online communities.

We lament the amount of time spent on screens and devices (regardless of what we’re doing there) and spend less time offline with friends and family, finding ourselves with reduced attention spans, disrupted sleep patterns, and increased social anxiety. No wonder we want to stay home, watch Netflix and order in.

In my book, #Untrending, A Field Guide to Social Media That Matters (2016), I pose the question: “How do we communicate the blood and bone of our perfectly imperfect humanness via integrated circuits and microchips?”

In response to Brogan’s peek into the future that is now, I must ask: are we up for the challenge?

• vickimcleod.com

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