There are a lot of reasons why we have reached this dark place in our progression as a social species – the biggest one of them all being a weird need to put tribe above tribes. But that has always been the case, going back to when we were actually in tribes with no real spoken language and rudimentary art skills. What are the things recently that have pushed us deeper into that tribal abyss?
May I present to you my Top Five-ish items.
Music Video-less (and Martha Quinn-less) MTV
Who are we as a species if our Music Television doesn’t have any actual Music Television and the endless rhythmic beating of our internal, eternally en-angered beast is no longer soothed by the winsome wholesomeness of the one and only Marth Quinn. If we are honest with ourselves, then we will have to admit that this was the first sign of the soft-Apocalypse into which we have fallen. Oh, Martha, why hast thou forsaken us (other than your winningly righteous FB posts on your official FB page that keeps us up to date with all things 80s music)?
Reality (Unscripted) Television
The emergence in the 80s of unscripted television began a downward spiral in the relative quality of commercial television. Once the Entertainment Powers That Be realized that talent, craft and taste weren’t true prerequisites to high ratings, the race to the bottom was on like Donkey Kong. And with it nuance of character, aspirations of win/win scenarios and empathy for our fellow humans. What did become the driving force behind these “story plots”? Win at all costs. Individuals before the common good. Moronic Machiavellian maneuvering to win a heavily taxed prize and another fifteen minutes in the spotlight. And for those of us playing at home? A couple of generations of kids whose greatest television role models spend the majority of their time strategizing how to troll their teammates into failure in order to win by default, instead of succeeding through skill.
Google and Social Media Algorithms
The impact of Google’s search algorithms and the top story algorithms for FB and Twitter and IG and other social media platforms cannot be underestimated in our current online dystopia. Algos are inherently reactive and lack discernment (in the human sense), and are therefore easily gamed by those who put their agenda above relevant search returns. Google’s mantra of “Do no evil” is ironic when they offload the intelligence of their role in an online search to a conscienceless AI that first applies check box parameters to the query before sifting the returns for perusal. This Black Cloak Clad Secret Recipe for search relevance, regardless of any good that it has done, was the harbinger of Facebook’s Top Stories Algo which forced us from a perfectly understandable linear timeline of posts from known connections to out of date posts from friends of friends of friends who know someone who heard that the Government seeds the clouds with drugs to control the populace. And thusly the end of the “civil” part of civilization began.
Upworthy and Buzzfeed Style Click-Bait Headlines
This is where we as a society were pushed up to the precarious edge of the tipping point. Realizing that the AI behind the algorithms that decided what we wanted to see were more artificial than intelligent, online content farms and marketers figured out that by using the most obvious headlines that screamed the most salacious details at us in 16 point bold fonts we, the nation, would react by clicking on them. And then we were off to the races down the proverbial otherside of the tipping point hill in a handbasket straight to hell. Who would have guessed, as they programmed a ground breaking AI that would change the way we learned our news and saw the world, that we humans would react curiously to the loudest voices online regardless of any inherent value that might be yelled at us. Diabolical genius.
Gentrification of Echo Chambers
Remember when our Echo Chambers were confined to, maybe, our siblings as youth, and maybe a class on Sundays where no one wanted to disagree vocally to avoid revealing the poverty of our commitment to reading ponderous ancient prose translated poorly into modern English? Remember when we would anonymously dig around on AOL and Compuserve bulletin boards to see if anyone else had heard of the Hollow Earth, or believed that ancient peoples were too dumb to build a big pile of stones broader on the bottom than on top (mainly because we couldn’t envision ourselves being dedicated enough to do the mass amounts of physical labor required to accomplish something of that magnitude)? The Internet and Social Media has gentrified our Echo Chambers and made it okay for us to be comfortable with no real challenge to our intellectual laziness. It has made our desolate brain neighborhoods seem like they have great landscaping by occupying extra space with bright colored plastic siding and artificial pink storks. This allows us to assume that we know everything we need to know to win an ethical or moral argument without any additional effort. It has carried us back to 8th grade when South Town Middle School was the very best middle school in the world, as evidenced by our basketball team winning 3 out of six 3A games in the local school district, and by the rousing, rhyming cheers of our cheerleaders.
Suffice it to say, we as a nation are Dorian Gray, and Charlie Sheen is our national portrait. We created him, and in turn he reflected our very real metaphorical descent into this barren field in which we lay now, thirsting for our carefree youth one last time. The tomb of our civlization will have a stone etching of Charlie on an iPad, surrounded by Pepe the Frog memes, the original cast of MTV’s The Real World, and the latest Bachelor runner-up, and a big bold clickable headline stating: “You Won’t Believe What Happened To America Next!”