Full disclosure, I have never been one to fully immerse myself in pop culture phenomena. Perhaps it’s because at a very young age my dad instilled in me that “because everyone else is doing it” was not a reasonable impetus for doing something. Perhaps it’s because my parents infused in me a strong penchant for common sense. Whatever the reason, I most often find myself on the sidelines scratching and/or shaking my head when I see what “most people” are doing.
In a recent episode of “Real Time,” host Bill Maher revealed that the fastest-growing field in the American work force is that of “content creator,” meaning a vast number of young people believe their future lies in sharing videos of themselves doing whatever it is that they do rather than going out and getting a paying job. The most recent iteration of this, which I didn’t know before Maher shone a light on it, is #vanlife, where people hop in a beat up old van and drive it around the country, videoing themselves doing that for people to see on social media.
Yeah, that was my knee-jerk response.
So people are driving around in vans, doing nothing in particular, and millions of people are following these nomads on social media, “liking” their videos and “subscribing” to their channels to see more of it?
One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that I am not the target audience for this form of entertainment, and frankly I couldn’t begin to tell you why on earth anyone would “like” or “subscribe” to such drivel. Then again, it kind of seems like the natural step in the steady downward progression of what’s currently being considered entertainment.
One of my favorite things to watch when I was a kid was a channel on cable called MTV. The “M” stood for music, and all it showed, all day every day, was videos of the top singers singing their songs either live on stage or with some creative expression of the music showing while the songs played. It was brilliant! For one of my favorite example, click below:
But then something happened. On May 21, 1992, MTV began airing something that was a huge departure from their format. It was a show entitled “The Real World,” though it was actually anything but a reflection of the real world. As I recall, they chose four kids from vastly different backgrounds, gave them a condo on Miami Beach and a bunch of money to start a business and then rolled camera to see what would happen. To make sure it was as ignorant as possible, they would choose, for example, a gay guy, a homophobic redneck guy, a snobby rich white girl and a ghetto poor black girl. In other words, they chose a group in which no two could possibly get along together and, surprise surprise, they spent most of their time fighting.
Yep. My reaction was pretty much the same.
I have never understood the widespread fascination with watching stupid people behave stupidly. I was clearly in the minority opinion of “Real World,” however, as it caught on, spread, and spawned what is now called “reality TV.” The same premise still persists, as you wind up with a show where ignorant people are chosen to design clothes, dance, sing, bake, etc., and the camera catches them bad mouthing each other, cussing at and about each other and generally behaving abominably.
Nope. I am definitely not the target audience for this shlock.
I’m sure you have seen this question meme on Facebook: Name the best worst invention of all time. A variation is: Name the invention that has done more harm than good. Same basic idea. One of my favorite answers is “religion,” but it’s not my all-time favorite. That spot is reserved for “smart phones.” These amazing devices have put more information at our fingertips than any humans in the history of humans have ever had such easy access to. Unfortunately, rather than using it to educate ourselves, it seems the majority of people are filming themselves doing inane things, hoping to become millionaires because their inane lives are just so fascinating.
This practice has certainly spread its roots in my 10-year-old, who will walk around with her head buried in a screen watching other kids do inane things….and then asking me to watch with her. My tolerance for this activity is about 15 seconds, by which time I have failed to understand why on earth people would watch the video. My daughter laughs and looks to me for approval, and while I want to be supportive of her own video endeavors, I have a hard time pretending not to be completely perturbed by the entire practice.
Admittedly, my family and my very small circle of very good friends are nerds. We get together and discuss religion, politics, current events…we don’t often talk about people unless it’s to marvel at the stupidity of some politician, pseudo-preacher or, you know, the media fixation on some #vanlife kids who went and got killed in the swamps of Florida. We simply have more interesting things to talk about. You know, actual reality, as opposed to the pseudo-reality of social media and TV.
Is this really why we can’t people to flip hamburgers, change the oil in our cars, teach our children or pretty much anything else? They are all too busy planning to be millionaire content creators on social media?
On the one hand, I think they must be ridiculously stupid to think anyone wants to watch them drive their vans across the desert while they remark about how hot it is. On the other hand, MTV stopped showing music videos altogether, reality TV seems to rule the networks, and most of the students I work with are absolutely consumed by this selfie culture.
It may just be that, as usual, the stupid, dumbed-down majority is dragging the real world into a state of absurdity that will ultimately be the death of us all.