What Am I Watching?

Today I found myself stumbling around the Daily Mail, where I encountered this and this.     

Celebrity culture leers at me from tabloid covers while I stand in line at supermarkets, magazine posters at news agencies force Kim Kardashian's name in my face maybe 2 or 3 times a day when I'm in the city (and more if I decide to read the free daily transit magazine while riding the train).   I could call myself a fan of several actors, and at times I will look up their biographies and do a quick google-image search.  But I hadn't realised paparazzi and tabloid content has now extended to two middle-aged men having lunch.  It feels like blog-format news, TL;DR and SEO optimisation have created a runaway phenomenon that is eating it's own tail, realises that truth, and continues devouring itself.

I often pass off popular tabloid culture as an aspect of media consumption that is vapid, but still relatively innocuous on the whole.   Though when I come face to face with it I am still able to be completely floored by how so much media is developed and placed online that is the very pit of a depth of irrelevance I hadn't known was possible.  Besides embracing the online world, there is an effect that you encounter once you unplug from television for a significant period of time.   It happens when you take a minute to look beyond the few shows you download or stream online and  back into what is being offered 24/7, consumed by millions on cable tv.  The reality shows and even the nightly news hours take on a surreal quality that you can barely tolerate.

Television obviously still has the ability to generate internet content, but I think that is directly related to the vast amount of worry and work being done to keep traditional cable tv paradigm on life support by relating it to the new media experience that is rapidly over shadowing television viewing.    If television were an living entity, all its content a part of its personality, it would be an insecure facebook friend who constantly sought validation online.   It would laugh along with the most merciless trolls and parade it's demons for the satisfaction of a page view, an upvote, a Like, a Pin or a successful meme.    

For every episode of Toddlers and Tiaras and Jersey Shore, a thousand posts on the topic could be spawned in the United States alone.  And those might only be from corporate sources, there are thousands more from individuals who feel compelled to create content - which obviously also feeds the individual self-branding process.    If a tv show has no angle for parody or further controversy and discussion online then it's likely quicker to die out than one that can revel in it's status as a guilty-pleasure, where all the viewers openly acknowledge is an exercise in degradation and exploitation.  The hateful, ironic or condescending backlash that emerges at first, eventually becomes a viable online by product that all of us might try to 'profit' from.  Whether the payoff is monetary or an ego reward.  

It also feels like there is a tendency within online discussions across the board to adopt a completely cop-out, narrow-minded attitude that ultimately leads to apathy.   The more complicated response is one where everyone is compelled to agree a that socially shared piece of information was inherently stupid or poorly thought out, but that it is the exception rather than the rule.  The second response still suffers from an undertone of condescension at it's worst and at best it only succeeds at generating a one-off shock reaction before immediately slipping off the collective radar.  

To feel clever lamenting the decline of humanity and conclude it's just drivel for the masses is to be grossly ignorant of one's place in the cycle.  There is no justification for feeling in any way removed from or superior to the prevailing popular culture.   As always, there is no supply without demand, or at the very least, without a tolerance or acquiescence to what is being injected into our shared public space.  When I gave in to morbid curiosity and clicked the links at the beginning of this post I gave an indication of my support, ads were counted as viewed and Daily Mail got paid, and that page hit count I just added to tells editors and content managers that I want more of the same.  And so on.  

So if we want to eliminate the worst of tabloid culture, from the stalking of celebrities engaging in the most banal tasks to discovering how to shift dominant media status away from reality television stars,  we have to take our heads out of the sand and ask questions.   I want to clearly understand why tabloid news is capable of not only perpetuating itself but thriving.  The truth is that any feeling of false superiority we might have about consuming what we consider educational or satirical online content in contrast to "everyone else" that indulges celebrity culture or television comes at a distinct disadvantage that we can't bear to admit is happening.   

I have been meaning to do a full post on Marshall McLuhan, and I will.  Though for now, please have a look HERE.  The interview is short but dense (unfortunately there was no embed code).

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