Getting dumber by the link. Reflections after reading issue of the New Yorker.
December 2, 2013
While traveling these holidays I found myself on a 3-hour flight with only a copy of the latest New Yorker magazine. Only? I ended up reading the thing cover to cover (and not just the cartoons). It didn’t take long before I realized what a bunch of dumb fucks we’d become. Nobody reads poetry anymore, let alone essays about it. And who cares for long-form film and food criticism? Why bother with all that reading when you can just Yelp or check the meter on Rotten Tomatoes?
God bless The New Yorker. For it has staunchly stayed about important and interesting things even if much of the world, myself included, has not.
I’m a pretty smart guy. But sometimes I think I used to be smarter. And that perhaps I’ve been dropping IQ points every year starting, let’s say in 1994, around the time the Internet began changing everything. I am not alone. Perhaps this is the first great irony of the 21st century: that instead of providing people with untold knowledge the World Wide Web has merely flooded people with content. And because this creates competition for our attention all that information had to become entertaining. Ergo Infotainment. So videos instead of words… instead of even films. A whole lot of instead…
I know. They warned us about TV when it became massively popular. “The Vast Wasteland,” one critic famously stated. What did our parents call television? The Idiot Box. The point is we got stupid long before the Internet. Still, the chasm seems so obvious and wide after reading that issue of The New Yorker. Shame crept over me as I digested an essay about the American poet, Marianne Moore. Or Patti Smith’s sincere tribute to her departed friend and sometimes critic, the rock legend, Lou Reed. Shame because while I thoroughly appreciated these finely observed and written pieces I couldn’t help but think how many years I had devoted to not, well, learning. I still devour novels and biographies, thank God. And I’ll always love movies. But like most everyone, I’ve become an eater of junk content: GIFS, Memes, Vines, Fail Videos, Funny or Die, and versions of advertisements and countless other useless links.
I tell myself I do this in order to stay relevant. After all, I’m a copywriter and a creative director. I sell this shit to my clients. But an ever-growing part of me also likes noshing on useless infotainment. Scrolling through Facebook is a bit like chewing on Kat, that leafy stimulant the wretchedly poor use to block out pain and pass the time. It’s addictive. And these days everyone (rich, poor, young, old) is chewing content. I’ve said it before. We are content zombies, recklessly biting bits and pieces of this and that, digesting little and seldom satisfied…
…until being sobered up by the New Yorker.