“The problem is, after a week of intense googling, we’ve started to burn out on knowing the answer to everything. God must feel that way all the time. I think people in the year 2020 are going to be nostalgic for the sensation of feeling clueless.”
– Douglas Coupland, J-Pod
The time we are living in is often referred to as the Information Age. However, I’m beginning to wonder if it should be rebranded the “Too Much Information Age.” I’m beginning to feel like we are too plugged in to each other and are too informed. Because we live in a world with 24-hour news cycles and RSS news feeds, media outlets are churning out stories even when they have nothing to report.
Last week, Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th President of the United States, which was certainly a historic moment and worthy of the all-day coverage it received. However, the build up to the inauguration featured some of the most pointless and ridiculous stories I’ve ever seen. The weekend before the inauguration, CNN was featuring all-day coverage of Obama’s train ride to Washington, D.C. The entire story consisted of this – Obama and his family took a train from Pennsylvania to D.C. That’s it. That’s the entire story. Yet CNN devoted the whole day to covering it, giving updates along the way.
That’s not news. There is nothing interesting about it. He took a train ride. So what? Now, if Obama ran next to the train the whole way to D.C. (proving simultaneously that he was both faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive), that would have been newsworthy. At that point, endless hours of Anderson Cooper blabbering on would have been welcomed.
It also wasn’t a story when Obama’s kids went to school in D.C. for the first time. Kids go to school all the time. I don’t need to see creepy paparazzi shots of the two of them heading into their school and I certainly didn’t need to find out what their school was serving for lunch that week (yes, news outlets reported it).
This nonsense isn’t just focused on the front page of your newspaper either. Earlier this week, ESPN reported the following “very exciting” story – the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals arrived in Tampa. Wow really? So the two teams that are playing in the Super Bowl this year flew to the city where the game is to be held? Well then, by all means stop the presses. What did they have to eat on the plane (or better yet, what did their kids eat for lunch that day)? Did they watch any good in-flight movies? Please, spare no details. (Then again, I guess there are only so many times the late-to-the-party ESPN sportscasters can hype up the “underdog” Arizona Cardinals).
But it’s not just the media outlets and sports sites that are reporting pointless stories just to kill time. Thanks to websites like Twitter and features like Facebook and MySpace’s status updates, each and every one of us can bore our friends with endless updates on our lives. Wondering what your coworker had for dinner last night? Curious about when that dude you only vaguely remember from high school that you only added to your Facebook list because you were trying to boost your total number of friends has his next dentist appointment? Well, fear not, because they will be more than happy to keep you updated. If you are really lucky, they might even post updates from their cell phone (and make a point to tell you that they are) so that you never have to go a single moment without knowing what they are doing.
I feel like as a society we are turning into one of those old couples that have been together for so many years that they’ve run out of interesting things to talk about, so they just sit there quietly staring off into space while eating their never-ending soup, salad and breadsticks. We all know too much about each other and, as a result, all of the mystery and intrigue has worn off.
Last night, I was thinking back to the early days of the Internet when I would use my dial-up connection to sign on to AOL and would wait for hours for a single video on Joe Cartoon to load up. I was thinking about how spoiled we’ve all become now and how these days I bitch and complain if it takes more than three seconds for a video to load up. Obviously, we can never go back to the way things were (unless, of course, Snake Plissken actually uses the “Sword of Damocles” to render all of our technology useless and send us back into the Stone Age like he did in Escape From L.A.).
But perhaps we can dial back the endless updates and the 24-hour news cycle just a bit. Look, don’t get me wrong – obviously, being informed on current events and keeping in touch with your friends are important things. But there is a fine line between being informed and having too much information crammed down your throat.
Now, I can’t speak for the rest of you, but the only thing I want crammed down my throat is never-ending soup, salad and breadsticks. I only hope I have something interesting left to say while eating it.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.