Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Today at one point when I was checking my email, the msn menu on one page offered these options for viewing, all in one list:

Hollywood’s most powerful funnymen

10 tips to a low-cost divorce

Making pretty pie crusts

Can Britney bounce back?

And Britney’s story was touted as the story of highest interest.

Those of us who use computers see these little headlines everyday, and I’m not sure why this hit me so hard today. But I was really struck with the following:

Making pie crusts was right there under divorce, as if they belonged on the same page.

The story on divorce was described the way you’d talk about saving money on buying a car or doing a home repair job.

Divorce was in the same phrase with “tips,” as if it’s just a normal thing people go through and might need some friendly tips on the best way to do it. And the emphasis was on saving money, not salvaging relationships or self worth or anything like that.

Two of the items have absolutely nothing to do with the real life of almost anyone viewing the page. They are about movie stars and a singer that surely less than one percent of the people seeing the page will ever be affected by personally.

Does this strike anyone besides me as madness?

It reminds me of Don McLean’s song, “Prime Time.” If you don’t know it, say so and I’ll provide the lyrics. What started out as the craziness of television, where you could watch video footage of the war in Vietnam and be interrupted by a commercial for toothpaste or deodorant, has spread beyond TV to all kinds of media.

I know other people think about this because I read their books and articles. But outside the field of sociology and psychology, do people notice that our brains are being taught to trivialize nearly everything? Does this bother you? Do you see how it affects the society we live in? What kind of effects does this have on you? Can we even know what effects it has on us?

I’m curious to know what you all think.


Lawrence Underwood said...

Oh, I agree with you absolutely. We are either taught to trivialise everything or make everything a crisis. It is sapping the life out of our culture.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

I guess I look it like the free market. Media is a commercial enterprise and I am a consumer. That's why I think media literacy and education is so important. The stimulus is there, so we have the challenge of choosing out of environment what to absorb and what to reject.

That's not to say its not ironic and silly what's all up there together sometimes.

Lisa said...

I don't think most people stop to figure out what is really meaningful. They are too busy going through their days trying to survive. We've substituted seeking meaning in life with seeking entertainment and, therefore, being entertained becomes the meaning of life.

With that worldview, Britney Spears is important. Is life has no meaning, then neither does marriage, so why not try to end it as quickly and econically as possible?

We must somehow begin to teach people to *think* again. Seek meaning. Seek purpose. Seek truth.

Sheila said...

This emailed to me from a reader who lives such an unplugged life that she wasn't sure how to leave a comment on a blog:

". . seems pretty much what you get in mainstream media is trivia . . . life's reduced to ear-tickling sound bites. what's astounding is that most people know about and care about the celebrities and their every blink. and except to the degree that it serves their purposes, i believe the masses don't truly reverence or value much of anything. media literacy is sadly lacking. it's essential. but really irrelevant without spiritual literacy. God's power can raise people above the banality and superficiality of our sinking culture. that's where my hope lies!

i'd also like to add that i don't expect any more from the media ( or the masses) . i read my ajc in about 5 minutes, skimming what's impt. to me, and don't watch television or listen to much radio. i don't the energy or mind-power (ha!) to bewail the state of the world. i guess somebody needs to, for things to get better, but really the only way i expect that to happen is through one surrendered heart at a time."

Sheila said...

Bev has hit at least one nail on the head. "I am a consumer." Our capitalistic, technologically oriented society causes people to think of themselves primarily as consumers. I think it's so sad, such a reduction of who we are and can be.

How does being a consumer fit into being made in the image of God? Does it, even? Or is just a necessary evil, that we must to some extent see ourselves in that role?

Sheila said...

Someone inform me--what's an ajc?

Miriam said...

Pretty much everything you find through the media is trivia. The sad thing is that when I was a teenager, these 'trivia' matters were important. I remember enjoying reading the 'gossip' news about celebs. And to this day I can't help but read what is on the magazine stands on the check out lane. And the worse part, is that I judge these people, because they are people, based on what I read. I think for many of us, we think our life is so boring and therefore we have to 'live' celebreaties' lives, because we are 'told' that that is the life to have. It is glamourous, adventourous, dramatic....think about soap operas, always some tragedy, some drama...but you know, in real life drama and tragedy does not make a glamourous life or make you feel like a heroine of a novel. I bet Britney would agree. (side note: since I have stopped keeping such magazines at home I have a better sense of self, and a better self image too. Those women magazines had a way to make me feel always inferior and not skinny, pretty, glamourous, sexy, powerful, impressive, ect. enough)

The saddest part is that of the 'divorce' tip. The media is no longer interested in helping saving marriages, because we are consumers like Bev sadi, and there is more money to be made if we divorce. sigh.

I think the bottom line is, though we may realize it or not, we absorbe everthing the media throws at us. And worse, we become addicted to what they give us, having to be entertained. I think that is perhaps the #1 problem with kids and teenagers in our culture. Sometimes we don't know what to do, or how to unwind or 'fufill' ourselves without some form of media. I know it is true for me.
I've had to committ myself to three days a week with no computer/internet access, because I have become 'addicted' to browsing and doing stuff online, so much so it robs my time from other important things for me to do. TV is the same way, and so is radio. I can't help thinking of Italians who have the tv on all day and night. I wish they'd publish some study on what that does to their brains!

Carolinagirl said...


You mentioned limiting yourself to your computer and internet access. I have started doing the same. I come home at night and check my e-mail and then turn the mcahine off. But then I go sit in front of the T.V. until I eventually fall asleep. I don't know which is worse. I know that without the ease of my computer, finishing up my degree would not be easy.

Back to your post, however...

I was once told that if you look closely enough at the ice cubes in the liquor glasses of magazine advertisements, you could figure what the ice cubes spelt out. I think the cubes were suppose to spell out the word "sex" in linking the two together.

I think it's the same in the grocery store, where items get placed. Lots of candy is (or use to be) placed in the checkout isles with the hopes that people would by the items spontaneiously while waiting to get through line.

I never thought about media stories being linked together as such.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

I am thinking your friend who referred to the AJC is writing about the Atlanta Journal Constitution.