The Narcotic Effects of Media


I grew up in one of the most active suburbs of downtown Tunis. My Sunday soccer match with my buddies would bail out the hectic and often monotonous week. Nothing would steal the joy of winning, except bruises across my lower body. It was fun and much needed to keep a healthy and socially engaged brain. Like other possible mediums, a ball or something like a ball wouldn’t perhaps exist if there was no human need to challenge a psychic and social stasis. So, the impact goes both ways. The activity, however, doesn’t stop with kicking a ball as it needs certain skills like dribbling or knowing how to curve a ball around a wall and into the goal. Perhaps, Roberto Carlos’ freaking score on Fabien Barthez in 1997 is the most dramatic goal ever seen in history. No wonder, bending a ball remains common practice among higher caliber players today and a goal can still bring positive waves not only to the player but also across the stairs. 

That being said, the dynamics of soccer could be projected on McLuhan’s Understanding Media. As an extension of our foot, soccer affects the whole psychic complex. It makes people happy when they win and drives them nuts and fall into a psychological disorder when the opposite occurs. It has become a talismanic magic that controls the emotions of its users (followers). In the same premise, McLuhan argues that “all technologies are extensions of our physical and nervous systems to increase power and speed”. (McLuhan, 90) His interpretation of Media appears to be an extension of our existential function. For example, the car extends our necessity to travel fast, the phone extends our voice, television extends our eyes and ears, the computer extends our brain, and electronic media, in general, extend our central nervous system.

Yet, perhaps social media, in particular, has elevated the technological extension to a new level of existence. While it has made the process of sharing emotional moments with others effortless, it has turned many people an “open book” online. Yes, like it or not, the online world has forced millions to join the new extension of the real world. We use the Internet to order things, to reach out to friends and family, to watch videos online, to burnish a Facebook page or simply to have an active digital social life. Unlike soccer, this new technology reframes our senses and nerves at a global scale. This is not to classify the online world as integrally “good” or “bad,” but rather to fathom the implications of our technological extensions.

McLuhan, in this premise, construed the experience or effect of using a particular medium, or media in general, as an attempt to fathom its dynamics. He writes toward the end of Understanding Media:

Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior, especially in collective matters of media and technology, where the individual is almost inevitably unaware of their effects upon him. (318)

Like the experience of dribbling and curving a ball around a wall, media and technology have become the nature of the society into which the medium is introduced. Like the effects of soccer on Africa or Latin America, the new technology effects can vary depending on the society’s stage of technological development, and those effects can change over time as that society changes how it uses that medium.


2 thoughts on “The Narcotic Effects of Media

  1. The reference to soccer his especially close to home for me. To this day, weekends address doesn’t trying to teach my children how to perfect the finer skills required of “the game.” It is amazing that we can all read the same material and bring such a variety of views out of it. Thank you for helping to bring the parallels to view so clearly.

  2. First, let me say that that is the craziest shot I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

    McLuhan would certainly have us ask what it means that one can either go to a soccer game *or* watch it on TV, and the answer, of course, would have nothing to do with soccer at all.

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