“Together, this ensemble of electronic techniques called into being a new world – a peek-a-boo world, where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, then vanishes again… a world that is, like the child’s game of peek-a-boo, entirely self-contained. But like peek-a-boo, it is also endlessly entertaining.” – Neil Postman
I read this statement by Postman and it led me to really analyze aspects of our social environment, including news (about which Postman writes extensively). A friend and I were recently talking about the news because she feels compelled to be better informed. We had a lengthy discussion about news and what it means to be “informed”.
I am torn on the subject as a whole. I feel as though I should have a better grasp on the happenings of the world as I am a part of it, but I don’t care to immerse myself too deeply, nor do I know when enough information is enough (back to that in a minute). While I have an interest in information about, for example, the genocide in Darfur, there are many “newsworthy” stories reported daily that I do not care about or need to know. I feel as though society disapproves of my deliberate naiveté, but why does it really matter to anyone?
I no longer watch the news because I find it incredibly disheartening; many of the stories are full of the horrible things people are doing to each other. Maybe I’m too empathetic, but I find myself very affected by the news. I’m a sensitive person, but perhaps I’m more easily upset because I watch/read it so rarely. Perhaps that turns a harsh light on our society’s desensitization to these events. Postman talks about the effects of hearing 45-second reports on various stories – murders, robberies, etc. Regardless of how upset these stories make any person feel, they will always be followed by a commercial break and, after the news program ends, a sitcom or some other entertaining show. We’ve trained ourselves to remove the coherence of the events and have molded a “world of fragments, where events stand alone, stripped of any connection to the past, or to the future, or to other events” (Postman).
And we can do nothing to stop, help or change most of these bits of news – they’ve already happened. I also feel like certain people keep up with the news simply to have something to discuss – to be “in the loop” when someone asks, “Did you hear about the ______ that happened in ______?” Not everyone fits into this category, but some do.
The friend that suggested Postman to me in the first place is fond of the following quote:
“… There has been no worthwhile discussion, let alone widespread understanding, of what information is and how it gives direction to a culture.” – Neil Postman
Though people feel an innate hunger to consume ever-increasing amounts of information, does anyone ever question why?