While peering into the lives of people in far off, almost surreal places and tuning in to the expressive narration of a sharply dressed news anchor, we’re all hopelessly entranced by a troubling modern phenomenon. We don’t necessarily have a keen eye for the important – we have a thirst for the dramatic. With the click of a button, I now expect to be warmly greeted by the mesmerizing smile of one of CNN’s absurdly attractive spokespeople. The top story – most likely a shamelessly dramatized natural disaster or grisly crime. Hour after hour, the rest of the world’s events are banished to thin, barely readable captions running along the very bottom of our screens.
Interviews with carefully chosen victims (perhaps others’ accounts aren’t as “gripping”), stories of amazing escapes, and edited, slow-motion clips of chaos absorb the attention of America’s top news network for days on end, until the “hype” subsides. Grave events are suddenly made to look like a box-office hit – a source of shock and entertainment. A cheapening of reality inevitably occurs. People’s privacy and dignity are rarely preserved in times of such televised disasters.
As we know, the media is anything but objective. Its status as a source of information is often confounded by its distasteful handling of stories that are especially sensitive. At a point, it becomes unclear whether viewers are empathetic or simply fascinated by cataclysmic events. How is it that we so often complain of political bias in the news, but we remain ignorant of the kinks in the very fabric of Western media culture? We don’t know any better. From early childhood, we have been conditioned this way. Through the media’s eye, we gain a glimpse of Hollywood – a world based on entertainment value.
No matter our disposition, those of us who grace buzzing college campuses across the United States have the opportunity to alter the social climate. When we slip out of the uncomfortable heat of May and shed the cocoon of the cap and gown, we take on the role of professionals – independent parts of a complex mechanism. We have to gain awareness of our tendencies and occasionally pose some questions. Ignorance is a threat to our generation. Our second life – the one behind the screen – is a crucial part of modern self-discovery.