Logging Off, Not Checking Out

“The Shop” is an HBO show produced by LeBron James that features free-flowing conversation between a rotating lineup of athletes, entertainers, and businesspeople. The core idea is that together they’ll share their unique experiences with one another and the audience, at its best creating a dialogue that features both laughing and learning.

On the most recent installment, Kevin Hart received a lot of publicity for an interaction he had with rapper Lil Nas X:

It’s clear from this collection of tweets that the Internet doesn’t need another lengthy think piece on the specifics of the situation [Hart comes off as a blowhard in the episode, but he never says anything homophobic, and his descent into drunkenness led him to interrupt every single person in the room at some point], which is fine with me, as I’m much more interested in the case from an editorial angle.

Obviously the point of written pieces like these is to broadcast a specific opinion about an event, but in the digital age it seems like we as media consumers are consistently limiting ourselves to absorbing the reaction to an event, as opposed to the raw event itself.

We’re being subliminally taught to accept an end opinion about a situation first, before being shown in reverse how the facts fit the headline narrative. Being stuck in this type of news cycle is visibly backward, but unsticking our dopamine-addicted brains from the rush of feeling certain in our passion will be no small feat.

[For what it’s worth I don’t believe most of these publications are doing this in a nefarious manner, as they’re as caught up in the never-ending news cycle as the consumer. Television stations and social media feeds don’t sleep, and they subsist on content; increasingly it seems that the query they’re asking themselves isn’t “Is this news?”, but rather “How do we report it as such?”]

One question worth asking would be “what is our society learning about the human condition from this type of writing?” At its best, watching heightened interactions play out publicly provides us an opportunity to pick up expensive lessons in “humanity” for free. However, when we routinely receive the facts buried within filtered viewpoints, it’s understandable why browsing the Internet in today’s age can overwhelmingly leave us feeling angry, exasperated and detached.

[In Kevin Hart’s case, the primary takeaway will be that he’s simply “canceled”, and we the consumer will be left without a real lesson or principle to ponder in our own lives.]

Another concern is that when we steadily devour editorials, we as an Internet culture have a habit of descending into a rhythm where the conversation ceases to be about the initial event, and the focus becomes commenting on comments and fighting the backlash to the backlash [the irony of this statement in the scheme of what I’ve already written here isn’t lost on me!] We energetically draw lines in the sand in order to take sides, forgetting that the tide of the news cycle will soon return with another controversy to wash away our focus.

So how do we improve upon where we are now? That’s a big question, and big questions start with small answers. The road to improvement begins with each one of us forming our own awareness that this problem exists, and then incrementally improving the situation by not succumbing or reacting to anything that sounds incendiary.

It’s not the goal of these types of news outlets to enhance us as a people, so it falls to us to change the way we consume the product. We need to approach headlines mindfully, and develop the perpetual habit of asking ourselves how best we can grow through the stories we consume.

If we all put in enough intentionality, we might just break free of the vicious news cycle we’re confined to, and cast aside the chains that come with being prisoners of the moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *