Thoughts From Six Feet Away: I Can Hardly Wait!
My son came down the stairs last weekend, on Super Bowl Sunday, and he asked us if we wanted to see the Super Bowl commercials. Although I am young at heart, “the old ways” tend to creep into my thinking at times. “We won’t see those until tonight,” I told him.
“They’ve been leaked,” was his response.
I guess I should no longer be surprised. In what has become the norm, an insidious beast has crept into our consciousness, a cancer that is now deemed inoperable – the desire to know before you’re supposed to know.
Maybe it’s a byproduct of the Information Age, where we have a world of data at our fingertips. We are obsessed with acquisition of facts, even if we don’t know how to assemble them into knowledge. All over the country, we assemble in bars and flaunt our ability to know random bits of minutiae in what is now become “Trivia Night.” Of course, I would be a hypocrite to denounce such contests (I’ve won a few in my time, especially those involving music), it does leave me with this one thought as I think about my son’s question.
When did it become so unpalatable to wait for things to happen?
In the case of the Super Bowl, that was part of the fun, and one of the many reasons to tune into the big game, especially if you weren’t a fan of football. Like an adult entendre in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, it threw a bone to the people who weren’t necessarily down with the primary purpose of the activity. The commercials were water cooler fodder for Super Bowl Monday, a way of keeping us moving on a day where we might have a hangover, or indigestion from all the food (another perk for the non-sports fan).
I guess that, to me, it reminds me of knowing what your Christmas presents are on December 23rd. What makes the holiday special is the surprise, the anticipation. I can promise you, if that was how we did Christmas, the Hallmark Channel would be hurting for viewers from November through January.
But the Super Bowl example is only a symptom of the larger disease. This desire has crept into our media as well. The first person to report the news used to be credited with “the scoop.” Somewhere along the way, the desire to be first eclipsed the desire to be correct. Reporters now announce the news and are sure to give credit to “the person who said it first,” especially on social media. Our news is now filled with salacious details of half-truths, as well as the words that would’ve been unthinkable in years past – “this is a developing story.” Or as I like to translate it, “we couldn’t let anyone else scoop us, so we’re going to vomit out anything we know, and we can basically write the story as it happens.”
Here’s the problem with that – it opens us up to making flawed assumptions about events, assumptions that persist if we don’t get updated information. I think back to the Columbine school shootings in 1999. As a society, we devoured the tragic story, and the media was more than happy to feed our insatiable appetites. The problem was, the things we were told in the beginning didn’t necessarily hold up, and legends about what did or didn’t happen sprouted up from everywhere. People with varied agendas began using this misinformation to their advantage, from gun control to Christians being targeted for their faith.
It has only gotten worse with the pandemic, and the agendas are as varied as the designs of the T-shirts in my closet. Suddenly, armed with a coterie of misinformation, everyone has become infectious disease experts or PhDs in immunology. Old debates have found a new battleground in the pandemic that are wholly unrelated to death and disease. It has become overwhelming to me, and I have a hard time teaching my kids how to analyze what they hear. The one lesson that has helped is telling my kids to be wary of people who stand to benefit from you believing what they have to say. I’m getting old enough now to be nostalgic, and I long for the days when we used to have different ways of looking at things, but we could all agree on what the truth actually was. Now, truth to some people is FoxNews, and to others it’s MSNBC. It has set up a dangerous way of thinking – a person that disagrees with us is evil, and one who agrees with us is beyond reproach. I also tell my kids that a person with whom you disagree can be telling the truth, and a person with whom you agree can be telling you a lie. I find myself wondering if I’m helping them or hurting them by encouraging objectivity.
I hope this post finds you all well as COVID numbers are on the decline. Things are still a bit strained, but I am ever hopeful for the future. As always, be excellent to each other, and…