Image credit: SciFiNow
It makes me sad to share this news with you: it looks like I have become unable to enjoy TV shows. Yes, it is true, and I allow you to feel bad for me.
Oh, how I used to love them! In fact, it is probably thanks to American TV shows that I am where I am right now, geographically, intellectually, and professionally.
In my twenties, back in Russia I spent hours binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deadwood, The Wire, Dexter, Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica, Veronica Mars, Breaking Bad, and many many more. Those shows made me laugh and cry, they were my comfort, true friends of an introvert. Eventually, I used these experiences to generate a research idea that propelled me to a doctoral program in the United States. (My paper "Something about evil twins: American TV shows on Russian television" was never published but I am still proud of it.)
Then in came the doom: media literacy. Ok, ok, I probably should not make it sound so negative and dramatic. After all, I do media literacy education for a living! I guess it is just like the old saying goes: with much wisdom comes much sorrow. But I do prefer bittersweet knowledge to sugar-coated ignorance.
One important thing that I learned is that commercial media is very much shaped by the need to get profit. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We all need to earn our living somehow. People who work in the media industry are not an exception. But once I started noticing tricks used by TV shows to stay afloat, I simply could not unsee them.
Cliffhangers meant to make viewers come back for the next episode and season; neat structure within each episode with just enough room for commercial breaks; emotionally exploitative plot twists; and the worst offender of all: I shall call it "zombification".
I don't mean turning audiences into zombies. I don't believe in this hypodermic needle kind of shit, and neither do most of contemporary media scholars. I mean artificially keeping a TV show alive by slowing down its action, developing characters and plots in ways that betray the show's internal logic (and sometimes having characters sleep with each other in weird combinations, ugh). I hate to see show producers preferring for a show to get cancelled because it sucks rather than wrapping it up when it still makes sense.
Of course, from the profit point of view a show that drags on forever is a dream. But for me it has become a nightmare. I have seen too many shows with the great first season turn into nonsense (in fact, Buffy was an exception in this respect but it suffered from other flaws). Recently, I realized that it just make me too sad. I can't take it anymore.
P.S. This is just about me. There are some great TV shows out there and I actually envy people who can get a kick out of watching those. I think one can be aware of a show's commercial nature and still enjoy it! Alas, I can't do it anymore. Is this what getting old is all about?..
How to share your ideas in a compelling way? How to make sure that people will remember them?
There is an easy strategy to achieve these goals. And it is not a secret. Yet for some reason only a few do it properly. How so?
The strategy was described by Chip and Dan Heath in their super popular book Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.
Here is their model:
And now in my own words:
1) Make sure you have a simple idea to communicate.
2) Have something unexpected to share, otherwise your audience will get bored.
3) Be specific, because vague ideas are difficult to visualize and remember.
4) Make your message credible by using internal logic and external authority.
5) Appeal to people's emotions.
6) Tell stories (human brain loves them!).
It sounds easy enough, right? But I know from my own experience that to use these principles you need to be very determined and disciplined. I used to have a blog here, and I eventually started hating it. Why? I felt that my ideas were not entirely coherent and compelling, but I did not work hard enough to change this. Eventually I deleted everything. I knew that it was my fault. I knew that I need to be concise, to tell more stories. But I was not organized enough to follow through. I think a lot of people who have something interesting to share fall into the same trap.
Now I am giving myself a second chance.
My plan is to practice the SUCCESs model in every blog I write. For example, in this blog:
1) I started with a question to draw my reader's attention.
2) I mentioned something unexpected (having a successful blog is easy, yet few people do it).
3) I offered a simple idea: there are six strategies for achieving this goal.
4) I described these steps.
5) I increased credibility by appealing to an external authority (famous book).
6) I told a story about my old blog. (Not sure I did very well with this step as my story was not particularly vivid or emotional).
Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement. But this is just the beginning!