How we betrayed ourselves with capitalism and cat videos.
In recent days, I’ve heard or read a repeating theme: the media isn’t reporting the whole story. It’s a theme that has been building as the tension builds between the media, law enforcement and those of us who don’t fall into their of the previous two categories.
Sadly, we only need to look into the mirror to place any blame. Or, at least gaze long enough to realize we shouldn’t be making such grand statements. Privately owned media for profit mixed with viewers displaying a propensity towards exhibitionism isn’t going to lead to a realistic take on current events.
If you browse any of the Nielsen reports (i.e. one on content by demographics) you’ll soon discover we watch, or rather consume. We consume a lot. And we don’t just consume content on TV. We use all sorts of devices to consume content. In decades past, you only had three major mediums to gather content – the television, the radio and the newspaper. And each was done with a relative sense of moderation. (And, with even greater sense of localization in some cases). And there wasn’t nearly the breadth of choices when watching, listening or reading. Today, we have content-consuming-devices with an arms reach nearly 100% of the time. The rate of technological advances in our options for content mediums is only equalled by the plethora of options to obtain your content from. Some we’ve created we self generate (i.e. Twitter). It’s not a surprise that all these networks are vying for your attention. Why? Because of ad revenue. Or just revenue. Period. You keep them afloat in some shape, whether it’s by watching a TV commercial, paying a subscription fee, constantly posting, etc. Living in a free enterprise society I think we need to accept that businesses are going to do what they need to in order to continue generating revenue. Even if it means putting aside their original business ideals to do so. (You may argue that some have gone too far. And I don’t disagree but can you really, really blame them? When forced to fold versus staying in business what would you choose? Are you that tied to your business ideals?)
The other inherent problem is us. We consume crap. Why? I’m not entirely sure. That is a project for a scientist to take on. But, we do. We could blame America’s Funniest Home Videos since that’s possibly the origins of making ourselves the stars of our own content. We’ll watch :06 second videos over and over again. And the media understands this. And instead of creating genuine content they are trying to capitalize on these trends. Recently I watched several morning shows which kept leading with viral videos from the internet – they’re trying to maintain a sense of being relatable and part of the current conversation. And big media isn’t alone, as brands have been employing a similar tactic for the last few years. And, I can speak to this directly having spent several months working on Oreo doing just that – being part of a conversation it didn’t initiate.
By combining an global enterprise needs to satiate it’s bottom line and our insatiable nature to understand ourselves, we’ve become the reason we can’t learn what’s happening beyond the device we’re consuming content on.