What if we told you that the medium is the message?
What if we said that not only do we send and receive information differently now but that we also create our own information as well?
You might be thinking “what are you talking about? How can sending an email or tweeting a joke be creating an idea?”
That’s why it’s important to understand The Medium is the Message. The book is actually called “The Medium is the Massage” due to a mistake from the typesetters, but when McLuhan saw the error, he loved it and kept it as it was. Perhaps this was because McLuhan thought media “massage” the brain to behave in particular ways.
So what does he mean by ‘medium’? Well, he means that the way that we send and receive information is more important than the information itself. Where we were once consumers, consuming information by watching television or listening to the radio, in the 21st century we have now also become producers, creating our own information as well.
It's easy to get distracted by the medium we're using when it comes to the modern world. We spend so much time thinking about our gadgets, our apps, and our social media accounts that we sometimes forget that they’re just tools. They’re not reality—they’re just a way to make things easier.
But McLuhan reminds us that they do have an impact on our behavior. This is why he says that the message is more important than the medium: because once you know what your message is, then you can figure out how best to send it and receive it.
McLuhan uses TV as his example of this idea: once there were only two channels available on cable; now we have hundreds of channels and can watch anything from anywhere in the world at any time of day or night. His point is that we don’t always know what we want until after we get it—and even then, some people may prefer watching something different than others do (since everyone has different tastes). But no matter which channel or app you use, if you know what your message is.
Marshall McLuhan, who was a Canadian philosopher and social critic and the author of The Medium is the Massage, was seen as an odd character by many. He claimed to only read the right-hand page of serious books as he found books have huge redundancy. By reading only the right-hand pages he stays wide awake, filling in the other page with his own thoughts.
The most incredible aspect of McLuhan’s claims was that they were made nearly 40 years ago, in 1967, before social media, the world-wide web or the internet even existed. His prediction of an international, interconnected, interactive global village is now an actuality.