While scrolling through your social media feed this week what did you see? Were you greeted with the rumours that Kylie Jenner is pregnant or were you greeted with the most recent news coming from Puerto Rico? Which one did you care about more?
Why is it that we seem to care more about menial things celebrities do and every aspect of their lives more than we do about important events that are changing everything we know? Here we are living in a melting pot of a world with events ranging from global warming to social change, yet we seem to be more concerned about the news that somebody may or may not be pregnant.
It may seem that I’m singling out Kylie Jenner in this article and that’s not my intention, there are plenty examples of how we live for tiny details of celebrity’s lives and how we ignore real issues because of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a bad thing, sometimes you just want to consume light material to escape from the world, but this ‘light’ material slowly is becoming the world, a world we’re all obsessed with.
“The drive for ratings has produced many troubling practices, from the furious pace of modern news to a tendency for journalists to scramble like politicians onto the bandwagon of the latest wave of popular sentiment” said Daniel Hallin, a professor of communication at the University of California. This may explain the push in media towards entertainment stories.
However, everybody’s guilty of this craving for entertainment news; me, you, even the president of the United States. We’ve all heard of the ‘Take A Knee’ protest that’s dominating the American Football scene and rightly so, their message stands for one of positive and overdue social change. Yet Trump seems to be more obsessed with which footballers should and shouldn’t be fired while American citizens face disaster in Puerto Rico, a fact the good people of Twitter are pointing out.
What can we attribute this obsession to? Hallin believes that since “the regulatory pressure is gone now” from networks, softer news is beginning to take prominence and with social media becoming so accessible and invasive there really are no boundaries anymore. We want to know what’s happening in the lives of the 1 per cent, do they breathe like we do? Eat like we do? Have sex like we do? Who doesn’t want to see exotic places and lavish things fill your feed. If anything it might even inspire you to try work towards being one of those very people.
This however, is a problem. Slowly but surely we are beginning to ignore genuine occurrences. What if I told you that within the last few weeks over half a million people fled their homes from what’s being described as ‘ethnic cleansing and genocide’. Would you believe me? Or would you perhaps think I’m getting confused with refugees we saw in the past? This is not the case, these people I’m talking about are the Rohingya people and until recently I didn’t know they existed, yet these people are enduring horrific events. Rape, mass murder, the burning down of villages, infanticide, yet we all know Taylor Swift’s new song because she has this ‘bad girl’ vibe.
Not for one second am I trying to belittle the achievements of those in the public eye or pretend that I listen to nothing but hard news. The real problem isn’t only the lack of balance in the media but also the lack of want from us as consumers to face the music and take a hard look at ourselves. Why should we admit the world we live in is extremely flawed when we can all paint a pretty prefect picture of our lives and admire this same work done by others? Why should we all strive to oust the wrong in this world when we can instead concentrate on formulating our own 15 seconds of fame?
But the real question is what can we do to change this? Do we all collectively sign up to a reputable news publications newsletter and discuss current affairs amongst ourselves while lobbying for a positive change in this world with our local councillors? Realistically nobody is going to do that, in this busy world we barely have time to do anything. However, there is one thing we can do: we can become more aware, we can look critically at what we consume and then maybe over time we might get bored of the menial things celebrities have to offer us and start to concentrate on the change we can offer each other. While Hallin believes serious TV journalism will live on, he fears that “it could well be reduced to serving a specialised audience”.
Cathal Mc Cahey