Digital Essays 2014: Committing digital suicide

Fares FP7

Fares Zoughaib addresses how not to drown in a digitally connected world.

It’s important to dive into new territory and push boundaries. And it’s as important to do it right, or the result could be counter-productive to your objectives.

What goes online stays online.

You can add, you can update but you cannot delete. The moment you share a piece of content online mistakenly, it’s a moment too late to retract. Someone somewhere has already shared it, liked it, commented on it or forwarded it.

Control-Alt-Delete does not apply in this world. People have their eyes wide open, eager to collect information and ready to react and transmit the moment their mobiles beep. And that is the moment of truth. Was it the right message? Did I target accurately using the right channels? Am I receiving the reactions I anticipated? Did my message create value?

The answers will always be unknown, but these questions, if asked prior to release will minimise your risk and optimise your opportunity to create content that is meaningful to your target.

Digital obesity

Consider the diet of the 21st century – one not related to our food intake, but rather to our obsession with information via digital platforms. Imagine a ‘Right Box’ service which would deliver a message to your inbox every morning with a list of what you should access online and what you should avoid – an information regulatory system that would control your digital exposure, filter forums and websites as well as control what you upload and when you upload it, optimising your time online.

In this diet, gaining ‘Right Box’ habits would save you a lot of time for a more physical world. The longer you stare at a screen, the more the world outside your window blurs.

Digital autism

Beyond digital overload and obesity, it’s important to understand that digital is more than just another medium. It’s a complete shift in behaviour. We’ve grown up being told to ‘keep our heads up looking forward at all times’. But consider the last time you’ve seen someone NOT completely engrossed in a device with their heads DOWN. Bumping into each other and missing their car at a car park comically. According to McCann’s Truth about Mobile global research report, 62 per cent of people would rather lose their sense of smell than lose their mobile device.

You can’t create if you don’t live. Be aware of your change in behaviour and allow yourself the space to detach. Allow that ‘fear of missing out’ to be missed out. If you refer back to the first paragraph, the information will not go anywhere; it’s there forever.

I am not ‘digital’!

You’ve heard it again and again – ‘I’m not a digital guy’. ‘Let’s hire a digital guy to do the digital stuff’. We’ve heard this from account management, from creative, from production, from any and all disciplines that would like to live as per the status quo in 1994 and shift responsibility elsewhere.

Digital is being a change in behaviour versus simply another medium; do you find yourself fiddling with your smart phone when you’ve stopped at a traffic light? Are you not fighting against your inbox on a daily basis? Are you not looking up the specs of that car you want to buy via a website? If your answer is no, you’re lying. And your answer being yes, suggests that you live the same digital life as anyone else with or without the word ‘digital’ in his or her job title.

In our business, working in an agency that caters to a very digital today, we answer to briefs in the same way – considering the same target, considering the same brand positioning and considering the same brand challenges. What’s different is that we now have more tools at our disposal to push brands forward and reach people where they spend most of their time.

Forget the technical rhetoric and just get on with it.

Digital language – A backward evolution

Coming from a region that invented the alphabet and shaped communication forever, our journey forward has come to a point where we’re moving in the other direction. From the early symbols of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics to a sophisticated form of language and back to reducing a four-word sentence into four letters punctuated with an emoticon. Are we regressing or is this a natural progression forward?

A/S/L = Age/Sex/Location. LOL. BRB. The fact that the word ‘selfie’ made it to the Oxford Dictionary, yet still comes up as a misspelling on Microsoft’s Word program.

Language, like everything else in our world is shifting and changing so fast. Don’t let it get to you. Embrace it as you embrace all change. Positive or negative, it remains to have been captured into popular culture – where we all live.


Pardon my rant, but I find it important every now and then to go back to basics. We are often overwhelmed by rhetoric and terminology whilst overlooking the very fundamentals – the world has changed and we must adapt to it, work within it and shape it.

(Fares Zoughaib is the digital director at FP7/Riyadh)