This image is from a campaign called “The More You Connect, The Less You Connect” by the Shenyang Centre For Psychological Research, in order to show the effects that smartphone use can have on our relationships.
The obvious signifiers in the image are that of what looks to be a father and son at a dining table separated by a large smartphone. Looking more closely at the image you can see that on the child’s side of the table there are lots of toys spread around making it messy, while the father’s side is much neater and more organised. The father’s side of the table is also larger and has more space, despite there being less on the table than on the son’s side. In the left-hand corner we can also see there is a shelf of books or magazines and a light that has been turned off, making it darker on that side of the room. This is also because the smartphone appears to be blocking the light from the other side of the room which could be representative of the phone blocking the father from sharing his knowledge and lighting up the boy’s ideas. We can also see the slogan of the campaign in the bottom right corner along with the logo for the research centre.
The way that this image is organised provides us with certain ideas about what is happening in the photo. For example, the way that the smartphone splits the table in two could be representative of the way that technology has started to come between relationships in recent years and that it is having an effect on the way that we interact with people in these relationships. The table being larger on the father’s side might be showing that he is spending more time by himself due to using his phone more often and this is pushing away the time that he used to spend with his son, making the son’s side of the table smaller. As the boy’s side is smaller but with more things, it makes his side seem messier; something that the father might have noticed and tidied up if he had been playing with the son rather than playing with his phone. The books and magazines in the background on the left of the photo could be symbolic of the fact that there is no need for physical reading material when we have smartphones that can hold all this information for us.
The colours that we can see in this imagine are generally quite neutral colours aside from those on the son’s side of the table, which are a lot more eye-catching with the red of the rocking horse and the blue of the ball. This could be done on purpose as if to try and get the father’s attention, and as competition to the bright screen of the phone which is distracting his focus from his son.
The words of the slogan “The More You Connect, The Less You Connect” signifies the increasing time we spend ‘connecting’ online has an impact on the connections that we make in real life, as when we spend more time online we are spending less time with those that we are around which can greatly affect the way that they interact with us. A good example of this is a Tinder date I went on recently; the person I met with was on their phone the whole time and barely spoke to me even though we’d got along well online. The fact that they chose to scroll through their Facebook timeline instead of talking to me seemed like they were completely uninterested in being there, which is the feeling that many other people get when they’re with someone who’s glued to the screen of their phone.
The fact that the campaign has come from Shenyang in China provides us with some sort of context as to why it has been produced. There tends to be a large emphasis on family and family life in China as they consider it to be one of the most important parts of their culture. And being the country with the most mobile phone and internet users, this decrease in real life connection would have a huge effect on their culture.
I think that the way that the advertising team has presented the message of “The More You Connect, The Less You Connect” in this image does not leave much room for alternative interpretations. Looking over the image, there doesn’t seem to be much that could suggest a positive outlook on the massive smartphone cutting the child off from his father, aside from perhaps he won’t be told off for making a mess of his toys.