Neither Is Yours!
Something occurred to me a couple of weeks ago, and that is we have begun creating a world where everything is reduced to “the takeaway.” Each morning on Morning Joe, on MSNBC, they end the program with a segment called “What Have We Learned.” It sorts through all of the complexities of the world’s news and centers upon a single point or a couple of succinct items the show participants have learned. Frequently, a busy news morning is reduced to a couple of one-liner moments.
In my days of news reporting, eons ago, we had a thing called “team coverage.” Of course, there is still team coverage these days. Today we now call it the 24-hour news cycle, and often, as in times of a government shutdown, there is a steady stream of pedants discussing minutiae whilst alleged journalists ask ignorant questions designed to pull a stream of speculative and incendiary answers from their interview subjects. Typically, this is done to find some way to sensationalize a big story further. It often leads to new bullet points that are quite ephemeral, and the reason is that we no longer present the story. We present the bullet point of the moment. The depth of a story is lost.
Of course, we now have news reporters and talking heads asking everyone to “share their thoughts” on Facebook and Twitter. What typically follows is a 140-character assessment of a very complex situation from someone who, literally, has no business commenting. They have heard a series of bullet points encapsulating the current status of any given event, drawn conclusions about said event, and offered to the world an opinion based on ignorance.
As our world has become technologically connected and interdependent, nearly everything we do is now found in 140 character tweets or captions of those moments of our lives we elect to share with others. Yet, all of this communication can hardly be called communicating, as it really reduces everything of depth of a short stream of data. In the case of the photo captions on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Flickr, we have converted what were once “Kodak moments” into photo posts. These posts offer a chance to see the moments our “friends” are sharing, but they hardly bring us any understanding of the events the picture is supposed to capture.
I have a friend named Lana. She recently took a dream vacation with her wife, Karin, and they toured Italy and Greece. As I watched the pictures go online from half way around the world, I found myself longing for a day or a week where I could just reconnect with the history of our species. I am enthralled by antiquity. I also found myself wondering when we would get together and Lana and Karin’s house for the slideshow of the vacation.
What we see online is what our friends or enemies want us to see, framed as they would have us perceive their lives. Contextual relevance is being lost as we become masters of our own personal sales pitches.
If you do not remember slideshows, I feel sorry for you. Most of today’s Millennial Generation would cringe at the slow pace of a slideshow. First, you have to develop the slides, and then you have to own a slide projector. Then you have to, invite people – this was done on the telephone or by hand-written invitation – and set aside time for the little get-together. It was a time to renew the friendship, share the moments of the lives of friends and get their perspective on the moments that have been captured. There was depth to our information. There was depth to life.
Bullet points were once used primarily for summarizations of complex sales points or pitches. They helped focus the mind of the reader or viewer, when presented in a forum-like environment, upon a specific thought, usually the thought the writer or presenter wanted you to “take away” from the pitch or presentation. Somehow, as our lives have become more digitally social, they have become less substantive. At least, it feels that way.
The wall post or tweet is a bullet point. The photos we put online may include a caption or other description, but that hardly provides context. Furthermore, the superficiality of these moments now includes a special filtration mechanism, so what we see online is what our friends or enemies want us to see, framed as they would have us perceive their lives. Contextual relevance is being lost as we become masters of our own personal sales pitches.
Our lives are being slowly reduced to public relations campaigns in an artificial social setting that we do not control. And we are learning to reduce our lives to bullet points.Author’s note: This post was inspired, in part, by Seth Godin’s brief, Show Me The State (Of The Art). While the bullet point idea had been rolling around in my head for a few weeks, Mr. Godin’s post speaks to the same issues I addressed here. His perspicuous examples helped focus my own thoughts on the subject.