Let me guess — the standard videos in your morning Facebook feed are:
- LOL cats;
- Police shootings in Chicago;
- A Trump press conference;
- TGIF Beyoncé music video.
Recently, my feed contained was filled with only one video. All That We Share, a three-minute film highlighting all of the features that humans share, despite their different demographic backgrounds. It was recorded by the Danish broadcasting station TV 2, and the production is simple. The people are standing in different groups (the high-earners, those who are just getting by, those we trust, those we try to avoid, the new Danes, those who’ve always been here, the people from the countryside, those who’ve never seen a cow, the religious, and the self-confident). They are asked to move to the center of the room when the speaker calls out a feature that describes them. ”Who’s had sex within the last week?” gathers smiles and whistles while a number of participants walk to the center. They are of all ages, genders, and professions.
The video attracted a tremendous amount of shares and likes. It caught attention in international media as well, so much so that TV 2 (full disclosure: I used to work there) translated the movie into English. The message of the movie was celebrated by the ’shares’ – this it the answer people, we are all alike, let’s remember that and come together with love. As a response to the European trend of increasing support for political parties with a rough tone towards immigrants, the video was a ray of light that people needed in their feeds.
Yet, distributed on social media, the video must also fight to actually reach the audience that needs its message. It’s written to all people in Denmark, but the fragmented media world might send it to only a few. Sure, my feed was filled with it. But my feed is filled with posts from friends in the capital who have college degrees, work in the creative industries, and vote for parties on the left. They eat brunch, and they listen to Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and they try to avoid pork because the food column in the liberal newspaper said that they should.
That’s my filter bubble, where everyone already agrees with the message of the video ”Let’s come together.”
To really bring everyone together, this video has to attract attention, not just in my feed, but also in the parts of the population that do, for example, eat pork. It’s likely that the video hasn’t reached — and won’t reach — them. If it does, will they approve of the message? Will the video change the discourse, so that next time someone writes a post like this, they won’t be able to identify us and them the way I’m doing it right now?
We have no public sphere where everyone interacts anymore. It’s sliced up in any way you like your sphere to be sliced. You choose your media diet. Spreading something across most platforms, like TV 2 managed, is probably the best mode of action to try and gain that contingent attention from a broad audience, attention that will ensure that we are at least talking about and referring to the same thing, even if we don’t agree with one and another. But this is a challenge in a political landscape where not even the concept of facts is agreed on.
The other day on the subway in New York, I noticed an advertisement for an event called One Book, One New York. It is a campaign aimed at having the city dwellers engaged with the same book, at the same time, to establish a common cultural reference. It doesn’t matter if we don’t share an opinion about the book, but the fact that we’ll be talking about the same thing — be talking to each other at all – is becoming the baseline for successful communication, the first step towards a public sphere where communion and consensus can evolve. The video produced by TV 2 is both working to create that shared sphere, with its wide reach, and establishing a point of reference from which debate can take place. It’s a good start. Yet, such distribution is also transient. The elusive World Wide Web has quickly swept the carpet, or news feed, cleaned and replaced the video with Beyoncé’s pregnant stomach. There is little time for reflection before we move on.
Let’s try and pretend that all Danes will see the video, and everyone decides that we’ll unite. We’ll stop the hate, we’ll appreciate our similarities, and celebrate our differences. Great, good for you, Denmark. A little, homogenous country inhabited by 5 million people, with free healthcare, education, and bicycles. If there’s somewhere that might succeed, it would be here.
The US has a troubled and divisive history that has created the present. Can a Youtube video have an impact? I doubt it can do significant change in a large and diverse society like America. That being said, with the Internet as a platform this video can live forever. It can be available, even if it’s not circulating in news feeds all the time. It could be incorporated in the education system as a visual benchmark for where and who we should be.
Could a similar video be done for the United States? Would it catch on? There would obviously be a need for more space in the film studio to represent the vast demographics of the US. The questions, though, could still work.
- Those who love to dance;
- Those who are going through a heart break;
- Those who’ve bullied;
- Those who’ve saved a life;
- Those who love their country.
The video is an interesting attempt to address the polarized populations we experience today. It’s clever to create it for the social media platform, even though the TV would have been the obvious choice for a broadcasting station, but social media is where people ’live’ and discuss.
Keep ’em coming, TV 2.