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The New Tech Tic

Christopher Lochhead is a former technology executive who now works as a strategy advisor.
Did Michael Jackson's death kill democracy in Iran? No, but MJ's passing exposed what happens when you mix pop culture, old media and social media. Americans get a wicked case of T.A.D.S. (technology-assisted distraction syndrome.)The combo-platter non-stop news media, social networking, and our celebrity obsession has created the fastest shrinking natural resource in the world: Attention.

In early July, the top news story in the U.S. was the election in Iran. Americans were captivated. As the story unfolded and the Iranian government shut out foreign journalists, we learned how regular Iranians were taking to the streets in protest. Media outlets, bloggers, and tweeters gushed about how social technologies (camera phones, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) was empowering regular people to report from the streets of Tehran. When the death of Neda Agha-Soltan was captured in a horrific video and posted on YouTube, she became a symbol of Iran's struggle.

Some proclaimed that social networking was becoming the catalyst for global change. Technology was supposedly creating a new movement of "citizen journalism" and twitter was becoming the savior of humanity. Then Michael died. Iran was blown off the headlines, tweets, and blogs. The media (traditional and social) fed peoples' gluttony for everything Michael. Two things became exposed.

First, we seem to care more about one freakish (albeit talented) celebrity than we do about the future of 72 million people in the Middle East. Second, addiction to the urgent is the unintended blowback of the social media revolution.

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We are living in a here today, gone later today world. Some times our collective attention gets focused on topics that seem important, but wait. Within seconds we can become distracted by thousands of trivial electronic-interruptions. TV news broadcasts scream "LIVE" and "HAPPENING NOW" as they force feed us simultaneous multiple streams of junk data, flashing tickers, and barking talking heads. We have engineers suspected of texting while driving their trains and causing the Thriller and my Blackberry?

By Christopher Lochhead
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