The Medium Is The Message

How Online News Changes The Way We Think

Coined by Marshall McLuhan in 1964, “The Medium is The Message” implies that the medium in which information is transferred is more important than the information itself. Even today, this is a radical idea. The meaning we get from news and social media is imbued with the medium’s properties and the way we interact with our feeds and screens.

Social media reduces news into small, digestible chunks— perfect for scanning the headline, looking at the image, and then furiously scrolling onto the next item. My claim is that the attention deficit caused by endless & discontinuous social media directly (and negatively) affects the meaning we derive. Let’s take a deeper look.


While most online feeds are (loosely) in chronological order, there is almost no logical relation between the ordering of posts in your social media feed. A cute puppy video loads directly next to a politically charged headline featuring an image of a distressed politician. Pictures of your friends are followed by a depressing news article about climate change.

If our brains are ever in search of a consistent story about the world (and ourselves), what are we to make of the capricious nature of our information? The arbitrary nature of the information we see online is directly transformed into an epistemology: our world is a random, fleeting place that is evolving faster than we can think in ways that are beyond our control. The randomness of our next feed item is the perceived chaos of our society and the turbulence of our emotions.

Helium’s information feed constructs high-level topics from varied sources so you can take a step back from “preview news” and read deeper.

Information Excess

With over 500 million new tweets per day, the excess supply of information online is driving the price of acquiring information to zero— at the expense of information quality and fortitude. The half-life of articles on social media is just under four hours, compelling us to forget faster than we ever have. The flood of ever-accelerating headlines transforms politics and public discourse into a short-term game. High-speed, fleeting information consumption becomes the message: the most recent and attention-grabbing ideas excel while slow, methodical ideas are lost in the void of hundreds of exabytes created every day. In a world where the time-relevance of information becomes shorter and shorter and our conversations less robust, the only way to stay informed is to forget.

Helium is the feed with an (easily customizable) end. Read slower from the best sources on the web.

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