The Medium is the Message

Posted: February 6, 2012 in Communications and Technology
Tags: , ,

Think about the last time you broke up with someone. Or, for that matter – the last time you got dumped! Did you find out face to face? Over the phone? In an e-mail? God forbid – in a text message?

The message may have been the same using all these forms of communicating, but which form was used says something in itself.

A couple of months ago I interviewed for a job, and then I sat patiently at home waiting for a phone-call. When I hadn’t heard anything for a couple of days, I checked my work e-mail – it turns out the manager of that department sent me an e-mail almost as soon as I walked out the door to tell me I wasn’t the successful candidate! I’ve been turned down for jobs before of course, but in every instance it was over the phone and I had a chance to ask questions. An e-mail felt heartless, devoid of any emotion, and quite honestly like a slap in the face. Their message certainly reached me in a different way than it would have had I received a phone call, which I assume is the courteous thing to do.

With technology comes the many adaptations we have to make in our lives in order to accommodate it. Like creating roads for the purpose of delivering mail, as Mcluhan talks about in Understanding media: the extensions of man, we have created etiquette about how to use specific technology to communicate messages.

A hilarious parody video about a text message break-up:

Critique of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Roads and Paper Routes) by McLuhan:

I did not find the reading this week by McLuhan particularly inspiring or informative. Obviously different students have different interests, and perhaps those with a background in history would have found something to “sink their teeth into” within Roads and Paper Routes. I am more interested in how technology affects society currently, and I did not find information about the history of trade and how technology has evolved in order to communicate better particularly helpful. What I did find interesting was thinking about how we currently evolve in terms of the etiquette that comes along with different forms of communication, however, that is more relevant to McLuhan’s infamous statement that “the medium is the message.” A reading more about that concept would have been much more interesting to me personally and I would have engaged in more critical reflection of the course material.


McLuhan, M. (1965). Chapter 10: Roads and Paper Routes. In Fernyhough, L. (Ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package: Winter 2012, (pp. 5-13). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 89-105).

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I have to agree that getting told you didn’t receive a position or dumped by a cold hearted piece of equipment is harsh. On the other hand, if you receive ANY kind of response from a company these days, telling you that you weren’t chosen for the position is better than not hearing at all! A courtesy e-mail just letting a person know they weren’t chosen at least lets them know that they don’t have a chance and should continue to persue other options. Yes it is cold and heartless and there are different situations all around, but it has become the norm for society . . . which I suppose is your point. Pretty sad.
    I also just want to say that if you get dumped by e-mail/text/social media or for that matter asked out, it tells you a lot about that other person, and just maybe they aren’t worth your time anyway. If they can’t face you for the concequenses of those situations, they will likely try to avoid similar situations ongoing. Technology can definitely be blamed for giving people an easy out, but it can also be turned into an asset in determining who you want to have a real life relationship with.

  2. A very good point. How someone chooses to communicate with you actually speaks to their personality, and sometimes their style of conflict resolution. It gives cowards an easy way out for sure! Thinking of it as an asset is a great way to think about it, and quite true!

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