We in social media have become totally saturated with article titles that threaten to make us literally explode with laughter, convulse with tears, collapse in joy, change everything we thought we knew, and lose our collective minds. The prospect is frighteningly…well…mind-numbing. Not only do these websites thinly veiled as “news media” over-hype the most banal, poorly-written stories, they tout half-truths, rarely speak any preamble to inform us about what we are actually about to read, and are a huge distraction from actual news stories.
One of the best things I got from reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy was the concept of “Bread and circuses.” Derived from the Latin panem et circenses, this phrase refers to how the Roman Empire managed to usurp and overthrow kingdoms who really should have been capable of withstanding invasion: by providing cheap food and entertainment. The idea is that you can subdue any crazy rioting masses if they are mollified with food and distracted with entertainment. What do you think gladiators were for? Why could even the poorest citizens attend a chariot race or a fight to the death?
Distracted. We’re all distracted. We’re distracted to the point that many of us don’t pay attention to what’s going on outside our own country, or sometimes our own cities. We’re consumed with television, smart phones, games, shopping, movies, books…anything to make ourselves happy. I’m no exception. My phone is glued securely to my hip. I do, however, have a few remaining brain cells. Enough to know when I’m being manipulated. Enough to know that our country is frighteningly divided by gaps in wealth and education. Enough to stop clicking on inane articles that diminish the value of good writing in this world.
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and I’m reasonably good at it, but do I have to change your whole life in 3 short words to go viral? Do I need to publish someone’s naked pictures to get noticed? Do I need to write sensationalist articles about the latest non-evidence-based medical breakthroughs that haven’t even begun the peer review process before they’re revealed as the new magic cure? No thank you. I’d rather enjoy writing quality articles of my own choosing for no pay (rambling as they may be), and help focus the world on what really needs our attention.
You hear that world? Focus. Enjoy your bread and circuses, but don’t forget that there are valuable topics out there, unrelated to Beyonce’s butt or squirrels that can burp Christmas carols. There are parents out there that still believe it’s safer not to vaccinate their children. There are people who donate more money to breast cancer, even though heart disease kills far more women yet gets far fewer donations. There are companies continuing to steal billions of dollars and no one will ever go to jail for these crimes, while a man carrying more than an ounce of marijuana could go to jail for intent to sell drugs. There are people with disabilities being ignored, misunderstood, abused, and murdered by their parents every day. There are black children terrified to talk to police for fear that their words or actions will be misunderstood, and they could be arrested, or tazed, or worse…
You might care which celebrity couple broke up this week, and that’s fine. Just don’t let the bread and circuses usurp your whole brain. It’s a powerful concealed weapon, and you have a responsibility to use it–not only to educate yourself with quality information, but to use that information to educate and help others. You don’t need an advanced degree to be educated. It can all start by just clicking on the right articles. You know, the ones with boring-ass titles that won’t claim to shatter every illusion you ever had about life.