So near, so far

Within the larger theme of smartphone addiction is the specific depiction of how smartphone usage affects human relationships. In this focused area, I recall two campaigns to be incredibly incisive and thoughtful in terms of how they depict the nature of smartphone usage affect people-to-people communications and relationships.

The first is a 2015 campaign called ‘Phone Wall’, by Ogilvy Beijing, for their client Center for Psychological Research, Shenyang.

The phone is depicted as a wall between 2 people sitting right next to each other, magnifying the physical size of the device to depict the size of its impact!

It’s a visually stunning narrative device and instantly communicates what it aims to.

The second is a 2018 campaign called ‘Connect with your life’, by the Chile-based agency Prolam Y&R, for their client Movistar, a telecommunications brand owned by Telefónica. In another visually impactful narrative device, children are depicted with a smartphone’s home screen icons on top of them, almost as if we see them only through the smartphone!

It’s also counterintuitive for a telecommunications brand to ask people to use less of their services, and putting the user before business!


Ironically, if you move away from this specific theme—that of smartphone usage coming in between people who are closer/living in the same place—then most smartphone brands or telecom networks use the trope of bringing people together and connecting people all the time. Nokia’s corporate slogan was ‘Connecting people’!

The difference is that they are referring to reducing the distance between people who are far from each other, through the use of the phone or the telecom network.

So, what works for distances doesn’t work when distances are shortened/removed! When distance is involved, the telecom networks and phones bring people closer, but when distance is removed, then the same device or service becomes a problem and comes in the way of even the short distance, magnifying the distance to unsurmountable lengths!

In other words, smartphone services or telecom services blur distances between people AND also blur nearness and/or magnify distances between people at the same time!

That’s a really odd dichotomy.

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