PGTW: Numbing down

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 5 March 2015, Thursday

Numbing down                                                  

The day the Internet broke wasn’t when Kim Kardashian bared her bum for the world to see; albeit it was a nice, squishy bum glistening with oil, it was the controversy about #TheDress, #LlamaDrama, and more that had social media raging for hours in all time zones.

This all went down last week.

First, someone posted a photograph of a dress and asked: was it black and blue, or gold and white? The photo was obviously one taken in poor lighting that served to create an optical illusion. However, arguments for one or the other broke out among netizens who seemed to have forgotten their basic high school science lessons on optics.

#LlamaDrama was intensely more fascinating. Sun City, Arizona, was the scene of a high-stakes caper involving runaways. There was adventure! and comedy! and an exciting high-speed chase across the city! with cops in cars and choppers trying to round up two llamas escaping on foot, er, on hooves, from no one knew where. Zoo? Private home? Animal sanctuary? That was another puzzle – who would be keeping captive llamas, and how did they manage to break loose from confinement?

One llama was white, the other black; both were captured on camera running on pavement, away from the people chasing them, away from all the angst and stress of modern urban living. Local television gave massive coverage to the incident. It went viral.

The renegades were eventually rounded up, and the memes broke out: “I bet the #whitellama gets off with a misdemeanor,” tweeted one wag.

“#Whitellama and #blackllama are the new #leftshark and #rightshark,” said another, referencing the dorky shark-costume-wearing dancers at a recent Katy Perry performance.

Other memes mashed up references to the two incidents: in one cartoon, two llamas were depicted, one striped blue and black, the other white and gold.

While people were wrecking their retinas over The Dress and the llamas were fleeing, Leonard Nimoy was quietly expiring in his Los Angeles home, bringing a graceful end to the living legend that was Commander Spock.

“He played an alien, but he was the most human soul I knew,” said co-star George Takei. Nimoy was not only an actor, he was also a director (Three Men and a Baby and two Star Trek films). He also wrote poetry and recorded songs.

Dying at 83, he lived a full life. In the last Tweet he posted a few days before his death from lung disease, he mused: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” He ended with his trademark “LLAP” – “live long and prosper”.

The extraordinary hubbub over these happenings – on an order of magnitude that perplexed even jaded netizens – pushed to the side more important news, among them the massacre by the Islamic State of Christians in Syria, the destruction also by IS of valuable antiquities and other objects of art and history at the Mosul Museum, and the threat of a death sentence for Saudi atheist blogger Raif Badawi, a crushing blow to the struggle for freedom of speech and religion in the Middle East.

Even the SAF 44 issue wore thin. “Got tired of Mamasapano,” commented a reader about my column a couple of weeks ago about the Fifty Shades of Gray phenomenon. “Found this refreshing and funny.”

A media effects theory posits that prolonged and frequent exposure to violence on media desensitizes the viewer, numbing their reactions and emotions to the suffering and pain of others.

The result is that issues with a significant impact on society will fall off from the public radar and thus receive no resolution. Without constant and ceaseless public monitoring, abuses will be perpetrated, crimes committed, rights trampled upon.

#TheDress and #LlamaDrama? They’re funny, but not important. Have your chuckle, but don’t waste an inordinate of time on whatever’s new that claims to “break the Internet”. Buying into the global dumbing down won’t help while we are at a point in history that we need all our wits about us.

When consuming media content, sift and screen all the information. Ain’t nobody got time for all that. Let’s not forget to care about what really matters – and that’s what we should break the Internet for. ***

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