We crave distractions. Stories about people like Donald Sterling, Mimi Faust, Chris Brown, Cliven Bundy, and the Carters/Knowles give us a temporary escape from our own boring lives. Many of us spend 8 or more hours a day at a job we hate, working with people we can’t stand, making less than what we need, to start all over again the following day. And out of nowhere comes a story that instantaneously takes us away from endless spreadsheets, bossy supervisors, and grueling staff meetings. Our cell phones and computers are patiently waiting, a magical portal to an exciting world of superstars, fame, drama, and anything else to make us forget our tedious daily routine. We post about it, Tweet about it, make memes about it, and for one glorious moment, we are transported to a place where there are no deadlines to meet, quotas to fill, or angry customers to pacify. We are now part of this bustling global discussion where our 2 cents actually seems to matter, even if it’s only based on how many likes or retweets our opinions garner. And then, reluctantly, it’s back to our monotonous grind, anxiously waiting on another juicy episode to rescue us again.
Interestingly enough, at the core of many of these sensationalistic stories, lie critical issues such as racism, domestic abuse, corruption, sexual exploitation, and many other topics worthy of intelligent public discourse. Unfortunately, the underlying issues are almost always overlooked. Rather than expand the conversation to explore and maybe even address the problems as a collective, we stay at a standstill, rarely using these stories as lessons and teachable moments. And just like that, in a day or two, the opportunity to encourage critical thinking is replaced by the next hot story. But of course, all we average people really want is simple entertainment to brighten up our days. We experience enough personal stress as it is. No one has time to analyze and dissect other people’s problems, much less solve social ills in the process. Right?