Mobile mums: Connecting through disconnect

Just recently, well-known artist Leunig, created another masterpiece. It generated much debate and rigorous response (ironically, on social media) with the simple image of a lady pushing a pram while looking at her phone, walking past the baby who had fallen onto the ground, unnoticed.

As a marketer, I saw a key target audience: a mum living in the digital age, engaging in social media, generating an ever-increasing digital footprint, creating a continuous opportunity for data and targeting.

As a parent, I felt differently. I wondered about role modelling – and as Leunig stated ‘…wishing he was loved like a phone’. I thought perhaps the lady may be looking for connection after spending the morning just ‘being mum’ or perhaps disconnecting from reality (always a problem near a road – insert shocked face emoji).

As both marketer and parent though, it did lead me to ponder the real purpose of our screen activity. I came to the conclusion that our screen addiction means a disconnect from reality to connect in virtual reality – in other words, a marketer’s dream.

A (dis)connected society

Listening to online conversations in response to Leunig’s drawing was certainly interesting. Many commentators pointed the finger, saying these mums are disengaging, dangerous and teaching their kids that phones are more important than them. The mums responded with ‘but you didn’t see the 150 things I did prior to that walk to engage with my child’ (see counter-drawing featured on social media). Others commented that it isn’t just mums guilty of this, it’s society today.

I agree with the last point of argument. On the train, on the tram, just walking through the city at lunch, we no longer look where we’re walking, or which train stop we’ve arrived at. It’s just head down while we scroll, text or engage. Ironically though, the purpose of our screen addiction is that it’s all about connection – creating societal disconnect to replace it with the virtual reality to share, tell or listen. It’s probably fair to say, it means we miss the moment in reality to capture the moment virtually, just because we can…and it’s social norm.

Take Apple’s newest iPhone, focused completely on the tri-camera features within the phone. Everywhere we go, everything we do has the capacity to be captured and edited to become part of our virtual reality. It makes it even more of a reason for mum to be on her phone. Maybe she’s a blogger, taking a moment to share insights on motherhood, or maybe her kiddo is an influencer, because every good children’s clothing brand has a few of those in this lucrative market.

Connection at a price

The importance marketing has in our lives is simply reinforced by the need for this constant connection. Just like a circle moving round and round, the more time we spend virtually, the better the insights marketers get for the target audience, the better the drive of connection, resulting in more time spent within the virtual reality. Thus the world of marketing – and digital marketing, at that – continues to gain momentum in all our lives, be it parent or marketer.

Leunig does make an even more important point though, with our constant creation of data and therefore the marketer’s ability to drive the addiction to virtual reality, the question about whether the next generation feels just as loved as a phone will become even more prominent.

So, with disconnection comes connection and the step out of reality brings the step into virtual reality, through many forms of digital data and insights.

I’m interested to see how long society continues to point the finger at groups who should or shouldn’t be engaging with the phone or screen or social media when all of us are the same – addicted to our virtual reality.

I’ll say one thing about it, though: Let’s make screen and social media use an indoor sport, so nobody gets too distracted while crossing a road.

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