Want to change the world? Here’s what you can do: STOP READING STUPID DRAMA-PORN.
Doesn’t matter how you feel about the Kardashians. By clicking on an article about any of them — good or bad — you are feeding an industry that survives on peddling trash.
It’s not that those people are trash.
It’s that they are not selling ANYTHING.
Or more accurately: What they are selling is an illusion. It is fake.
They are selling a lifestyle, or an image, dangling a fantasy of what your life could look like — from the outside — if only you took the right vacations or bought the right product or had the right filter on your photos.
The reason that there is so much NOT-NEWS in our culture is because people respond to it. All the politidrama hitting the front page of major media outlets about who said what behind whose back is NOT NEWS. It’s cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories or backstabbing feudalism playing out on a larger stage for all of us aghast spectators to watch.
It is NOT NEWS. It is NOT NOURISHING. It is NOT HEALTHY.
You get ZERO nutrient value from consuming it.
We’re not talking about cat videos on reddit or Let’s Plays on youtube. Those have questionable value but they’re not — at least in our opinion — actively damaging our culture. They’re entertaining. Shallow, perhaps, but essentially harmless (mostly).
You may think that an up-in-arms article about the machinations of the White House or the stupid thing that some Leader of the Free World has tweeted today is also harmless. Or even that you need to follow the tweets of the LotFW so that you know what’s happening out there.
But trust us. You do not. Tweets are not what’s happening. Tweets are tweets; ephemeral; fleeting. Tweets do not create policy or change. Tweets seem to be solely a means of distracting everyone from what’s really happening. If you want to know what our government is up to, read the smaller headlines on the front page of the paper. The ones that talk about legislative changes and rules being rolled back. That’s where the real action is today, yet nobody seems to be noticing. Everyone is caught up in the drama about who said what behind whose back.
Or maybe your fetish takes a different form. Maybe you’re secretly obsessed with Nicki Minaj. Or you binge on prank videos when you’re by yourself in your apartment at night. Or you devour all the articles about the manueverings of your favorite quarterback’s personal trainer who’s trying to take over a whole football franchise. Or you can’t stop watching Ellen DeGeneres and you hope nobody ever finds out. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with any of those things (though our perspective is that prank videos are just plain mean).
What we’re suggesting today is that you pay attention to what you actually consume on the Internet. Just because there’s a tantalizing breathless headline about some actress who got her personal phone hacked and her photos are now strewn across the Internet, or some ridiculous thing that someone inside or outside the White House is claimed to have said, or some youtuber posted something totally stupid and racist, does NOT mean you have to click on it and read it.
These things exist because people respond to them. They have no value. They are not making the world a better place (or whatever it is you professed you want to do in your MBA apps).
Watching drama videos on the internet is simply perpetuating the drama. There is no redeeming value for others to participate in drama. It’s drama. It’s emotion for emotion’s sake. To be a voyeur on other people’s emotions is not helpful. It’s not helping them, and it’s not helping you. It’s just giving you a cheap thrill. It lets you be In The Know, so that you can be on the Us side of an us-vs-them scenario. These are hardwired feelings that are built into all of us, where we need to know where the power structure is and which alliances will serve us better — but in this social media era, they are being exploited to the detriment of us all.
The worst of all is clicking on articles that profile the latest mass shooter. Don’t do it. Many of these people are doing it for the infamy of the crime. They want to become famous because of the atrocity. Don’t indulge your sick curiosity in this way. It’s not necessary. You will learn nothing useful by reading about a detailed bio of a disturbed person who committed another disturbing crime.
This is not just a national media issue but a hyperlocal one, too. If you see someone in your social network being treated poorly, then instead of being a bystander to it, say something. Stand up for someone who’s being victimized on the Internet. Do it respectfully, in a way that shows compassion to the one who is bullying as much as the one being bullied. Simply reminding people that “I’m sure you’re really a very nice person IRL and I doubt you would say this to this person’s face. If all of us want the world to be a better place, then perhaps we can try make our online world a little better as a first step.”
The right to free speech means that people can say whatever they want, but you don’t have to participate in it.
If fewer of us are responding to the clickbait, then there will be fewer advertising dollars flowing to those who are trafficking in such counterproductive commerce. Is the article whose headline you see going to uplift you? Is it going to teach you something new? Is it going to give you a new skill or help expand your view of the world in a way that will benefit you or some others?
If not, you can still click through to read it. But just before you do, ask yourself: Is this intended to build up or tear down? Is this article contributing to an illusion of the world that NOBODY truly experiences, be it some type of artificial glamour or an airbrushed exclusivity or the imagined prestige of fame? Are you going to read about someone else’s suffering for your own enjoyment?
If so, it’s your choice to make, but do it with awareness. What will this give you? What are you giving away with this click? Don’t be a vacuous cog in the machine.