In the top right hand corner of Facebook there is a box called “Trending” and in it are the top three most popular topics of conversation for that moment. The top two this morning: Michael Jackson and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
What about the woman from Sudan who was freed from prison? What about this dog-eating festival in China that has protesters up in arms? What about missing girls? Or missing planes? Or controversial political decisions?
What about the fact that the Canadian Conservative Government attacked the NDP for spending $5000 on flowers (which were for visiting state officials, politician and/or celebrity funerals, stage decor for TV appearances, and thank-you gifts to party members who had done outstanding at their jobs in that quarter). That’s right, $5000 over three months or so. Compared to some of the costs for flights, hotels, and fancy rental cars that have been pinned on the Conservatives over the years, and compared to the Christmas bonuses the Prime Minister probably received, $5000 is chump change. As a big corporation what it spends on flowers and fruit baskets in the course of wooing clients. I’m betting $5000 is chump change where they’re concerned too.
There are three slots on that box, three trending stories, and they update an average of three times a day. I’ll get the top nine stories of the day. They’ll be about movie stars dying, new movie trailers, which athlete is signing with which team, the latest celebrity marriage/divorce, the latest sports’ score, celebrity drug/alcohol usage (relapse, rehab, etc) – and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get one about an important global political or economic matter.
Let’s face it people. While social media and the internet are great for networking, fact checking, research, and communication, it’s also the largest time waster, the largest source of misinformation, and the largest social/political distraction of our time. TV came under the same fire once upon a time. Instead of doing something about the major issues we’re tweeting about them. We have 24/7 access to what our favourite celebrities (whether they place sports or sing or act) are doing, good or bad, and we care more about that than what our governments are doing. We care more about the dollar value of Kim Kardashian’s latest divorce than how much money the members of parliament spend on their vacations. We care more about which team a ball player is signing with than which party is in power.
Don’t believe me? Check out what’s trending. Check out what’s on the NEWS stands at the grocery store. 99% of what you can buy at the NEWS stand is gossip and rumour. Only 1% is the local paper and even they have a sports section and an entertainment section.
Okay, movies, music, and sports are part of our culture and we need to stay culturally involved. I get that. But people, this is getting out of hand.
I don’t have television. I’m a stay at home mom so I rarely drive (and my car radio is busted so I only get radio on the weekends when I get my husband’s car). I get my news second hand from my husband who reads the paper at work and listens to CBC radio on occasion. Or I get it from my grandparents and dad. Or from (yup, I’m guilty of it) Facebook conversations. If I wanted to be more informed I could follow CNN or CBC News or BBC news. I’m not the guru of news worthy by any stretch. But I worry when 1 out of 9 trending stories in 12 hours has anything to do with the political/economic/social issues of our world.
We have in our hands the greatest tool ever invented for staying informed. And we’re choosing to be informed about the wrong things.
Society has to rank the political/social/economic issues above celebrity gossip and movie trailers. An uninformed public says to the government “Sure, do whatever you want” and that’s dangerous. Every science-fiction novel and movie since the beginning of science fiction that has dealt with this subject agrees. When a government gets too much control it doesn’t turn out so good for the every-man character.
Lets get informed about what really matters. (And that goes for me too. CBC news, here I come.)