Sunday, October 28, 2012

McLuhan and Media Psychology

Understanding media does not have to be complicated and methods have been created to reveal simple this understanding can be.  McLuhan created a tetrad that breaks down our media and technology into their simplest form. Jason Ohler says, about the tetrad that "every new technology or medium does four things," enhances, obsolesces, retrieves, and reverses. (Ohler, p. 134) To understand better how media has impacted our lives, we look at the four aspects of McLuhan's tetrad in an aspect that impacts us as media psychologists.
As pointed out in Ohler's book, "this is not an exact science," (p. 135) but it is a useful way to show how media impacts our lives in a structured and semi-basic manner.  As media psychologists there are many forms of media that will be impactful in our professional field, but social media seems to be one that touches everyone. 

 Globally both Twitter and Facebook are used to share stories, daily events, and personal information with their friends, families, and online followers.  One such aspect social media allows, is a safe place for a person to "come out."  There are many forms of coming out and most of us do this on a daily basis without even realizing it.  Of course, when hearing the phrase "coming out" most people infer the person coming out is gay, but what if the person is undocumented, Transgendered, alcoholic, or Atheist. 

Historically the term "to come-out" has been associated with the gay community but today this term has been expanded to other avenues of the human experience.  Coming out simply means that people have disclosed something about themselves that society deems abnormal, and in many ways this is a life long and risky process.  Society does not like what it does not understand so the fear of rejection, abandonment, and physical harm are real concerns when one "comes out." While these possibilities do not disappear, social media has provides a place for people to come out in the comfort and safety of their own home, and allows their friends and family time to process the information on their own, rather in the moment of when they were told.  

To better understand how this form of media impacts us, let us look at McLuhan's tetrad for Facebook and Twitter.  With over 1 billion users signing in monthly to Facebook and over 500 million on Twitter, these two forms of communicating are now woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Social media has become one of the fastest ways for people to connect and control the flow of information.  By using the four aspects of McLuhan's tetrad on Facebook, I propose it would look like this:

While Facebook and Twitter are very common forms of social media they are not the only choices.  Many turn to blogging sites such as Tumblr, video sharing sites such as Youtube and Vimeo, and networking sites like Linkedin and Pinterest. All of these share the qualities laid out in McLuhan's tetrad. (see above image) Social media allows the user better control over who they reveal information to, the privacy of these options is still not that strong.  Privacy settings can be worked around and information is sold to third party users. The only true way to stay secure is to keep the information to yourself. 

There is a perception around social media that the ramifications of releasing information online will be minimal, but what many do not realize is social media is the equivalent of using a megaphone to whisper a secret. As media psychologists, it is essential to understand and apply the information we gain  about social media in terms of where it came from, how it impacts us today, and where it could possibly take us in the future.  

DeGroat, T. (2012, September 26). Coming Out as Undocumented: How Social Media Gives DREAMers a Voice | WaPo Labs. WaPo Labs | Focusing on digital innovation for The Washington Post Company. Retrieved from

Dimitri (2008, September 7). Media : McLuhan/LawsOfMedia. Media: McLuhan/LawsOfMedia. Retrieved from

Fowler, G. (2012, October 15). When the Most Personal Secrets Get Outed on Facebook - Yahoo! Finance. Yahoo! Finance - Business Finance, Stock Market, Quotes, News. Retrieved from

Key Facts - Facebook Newsroom. (2012). Facebook's latest news, announcements and media resources - Facebook Newsroom. Retrieved from

Kristina , K. (Producer), & undefinedundefined (Director). (2007). McLuhan's Wake. [DVD]. Canada.

Lunden, I. (2012, July 30). Analyst: Twitter Passed 500M Users In June 2012, 140M Of Them In US; Jakarta ‘Biggest Tweeting’ City | TechCrunch. TechCrunch. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2012). Email communication. Retrieved October 23, 2012.

Image References

Amanda (2012, June 25). She's "off her meds". You can tell by her Facebook posts. | Thinking Of You Ecard | Free Ecards, Funny Ecards, Greeting Cards, Birthday Ecards, Birthday Cards, Valentine's Day Ecards, Flirting Ecards, Dating Ecards, Friendship Ecards, Wedding Ecards, Anniversary Ecards and more at Retrieved from

Amerland, D. (2012, January 15). Is Social Media Really Overrated? Technorati. Retrieved from

Crew, N. (2012, October 17). Coming Out | laFraise Blog. laFraise Blog. Retrieved from

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