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?
But what if the distractions we crave are really just symptoms of an unfulfilled potential? What if our silly opinions on the latest celebrity-scandal could instead be channeled into more productive dialogue? Just like the drug addict who gets high to fill an emotional void, is celebrity worship simply the drug that masks our discontent with life? Are we so starved for sustenance that we consume anything and everything just to help us stay afloat another day? Have our lives become so uninspiring that living vicariously through complete strangers motivates us enough to keep pushing just a little longer? What if the remedy to a boring, uneventful existence was to simply and wholeheartedly get involved in our own lives rather than in the affairs of others?
What if we could give our lives even more meaning by using our free time and energy to champion some of the issues we seem to be so passionate about? Rather than posting countless Facebook comments about Donald Sterling’s racist rants, can that same fire be used to advocate for racial justice…even if only within our own circles? Instead of tweeting how outraged we are about Mimi Faust’s sex tape, can we do a better job of monitoring the sexually degrading entertainment our kids are exposed to? Can we spend more time developing healthier relationships with our loved ones than we do trying to figure out why Jay-Z and Solange don’t get along? Taking it a step further, is there an organization we can join that will welcome our fervor for speaking our minds and help us apply that intensity towards something constructive?
The truth is, celebrities and their drama have distracted us as long as I can remember. However, today’s media has magnified their importance like never before. Technology and social media give us 24/7 access into every facet of their lives while we become more and more detached from our own. Something is very wrong with this picture. And while many countries across the globe use the power of technology and social media to launch nationwide political movements, here we are stuck on Facebook and Twitter, awaiting the next chapter of the Solange/Sterling show. In the meantime, our quality of life is rapidly decreasing…and Dr. Dre’s money can’t help us.