Negative White Noise
In our daily lives, we are bombarded by information. We absorb phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, 24 hour news cycle, newspapers, magazines, billboards, television, books, mp3 players, and regular verbal interaction. The only thing that seems to cut through this dense fog of white noise is strong opinions.
With so many things preening for our attention, we don’t have time to appreciate the subtlety and nuance of a well formulated idea. We’re entertained by the conflict of extremes. Heroes vs. Villains. Right vs. Left. While the reality is, the majority of us are somewhere in between the two polar extremes.
The source of this white noise is almost universally negative. Generally for things to be noteworthy for traditional media, they have to be anomalies. The 1 person who commits a murder in a community of 100,000 where 99,999 people don’t commit a murder that day is the one that makes the news. The paparazzi digs up dirt on celebrities. Our sports coverage circles around cheating and fights over money. Advertising almost universally pushes products by making you feel inferior if you don’t have that product or makes you feel like you need that product to correct a defect that is wrong with you.
Creative people, authors, artists, musicians and the like thrive off of depression, remorse, misery, and pain. Many try to make their art into a form of social commentary. Many try to deal with their personal problems by expressing them artistically. People call, text, Tweet, blog, use Facebook, etc. to complain far more than any other reason. So much of society’s information is how we cope with the negative.
People cry and lament about how Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan’s legal problems, and the royal wedding got more coverage than the Arab spring. When in reality, the most important events are often lost in the white noise. Entertainment floats to the top. The most important issues are rarely the most popular issues.
We are always aware that people are being murdered, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, exploited, and suffering every single minute of every single day. Of course we don’t want to deal with it. We don’t want to hear about it until it hits our doorstep. We’re so lost in this negative white noise that we seek out the easiest coping mechanism: ignoring it all.
There is a disconnect between people and the most important events. They don’t see how it affects their lives. They don’t see how they’ll make a difference. They hear all these negative things. They accept that no matter what they do these negative things will happen anyway. Everyone throws their hands up and self medicates with entertainment, anti-depressants, alcohol, food, shopping, and marijuana.
Now, you might be sitting there thinking that I’m doing the same thing. I’m a hypocrite for contributing to the white noise by complaining to the same few dozen people who take the time to listen to me. My defense is in nuance. My hope is that as more of us who have this awareness we can help others bridge that disconnect and prevent some apathy.
I’m not asking for everyone to become a goody-two-shoes and “Pay it Forward”, but instead of being angry at political talking heads, vapid musicians, self absorbed actors, and reality television stars, just realize that after a long day of work surrounded by the negative white noise, people just want to sit on their couch or computer and eat their nutrition-less entertainment Twinkie.
Individually, we can’t overturn the tide. We can however help one another cope. We can improve each others’ day. We can convince one another some action is better than inaction. The most important things will never be the most popular things, but the goal should be preventing everyone around us from confusing the two and losing hope.