Are You not Entertained? (Sunday Tribune column)

As I write this column, there is a storm happening on Twitter. Speculation as to whether Paralympic star, Oscar Pistorius accidently or intentionally killed his girlfriend is the story buzzing on social networks. Everyone has an opinion and theory and I am astonished at the attention it is receiving on my Twitter timeline. This same morning I read a small article in the Times about the murder and rape of a 98 year old grandmother. The article is barely the size of a matchbox and I haven’t heard anything about it on Twitter yet.

I sit here wondering if only our nation put half this kind of passion for the Pistorius story into more worthwhile matters in South Africa… But we live in an age where the sensational is more popular and while once raped grannies were shocking, we are now desensitised enough to find the topic, well, boring. 

Now as a journalist and media studies lecturer I know these things; I know sex sells and people increasingly need to be entertained and shocked to keep their attention. I know context and content is cut to give people the fastest and most entertaining story. I know this, but acknowledgment must not be mistaken for acceptance. Already speculations and opinions of pity and anger are arriving thick and fast for Pistorius on social networks, fuelling a fascination for scandal and drama and for one moment, I am reminded of the bloody Russell Crowe brandishing a sword and addressing the audience watching the battles at the coliseum with, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

We are never entertained to satisfaction. We live in an age where we have to be constantly entertained to survive. As shown with the Romans in the coliseum, human beings have always sought entertainment but now, with the rapid rise of technology we are living in an era where we can be constantly entertained. We live in houses full of televisions, sound systems and Internet connections but oddly we remain bored, or at least, not interested enough. We moved from 2D to 3D to 4D in one generation alone, indicating an urgent need to entertain faster and better. Cell phones are replaced in a matter of months and now even mistresses are replaced with new mistresses. We are becoming an increasingly bored lot and I wonder what that means for us as human beings. Where does it actually stop and how outrageous does it have to get to surprise us anymore?
As I wrap up, I see Twitter is already dying down about Pistorius, already it is moving onto to new more exciting topics which means that the time for relevance is becoming shorter and shorter. There has been research on what our dwindling attention spans is doing to our memories but that’s another column for another time. Technology plays an important part in our desensitisation and our craving to be entertained and I believe it’s important to be critically aware of it instead of being completely caught up in it. It’s why I enjoyed teaching Media Studies – it provided the tools for students to think critically about our media saturated world. I quit Facebook a while ago when I made the decision that it was keeping me so mindlessly busy that I had no time to do things that mattered in my life.
I think perhaps, that may be the first step in understanding the radical changes we face: being aware and being critical of what is happening to us and then taking the necessary steps to address it. It may not end our hunger for constant entertainment but it might just curb it.
(Note: I started this column on the morning of the Oscar Pistorius shooting and since then revelations at the bail hearings has just further spurred the story on; it has become the national [and international] topic in households for more than a week now, once again revealing that entertainment will always win in relevance).

First published 17 February 2013, Sunday Tribune, Herald.

Posted in Column, Oscar Pistorius, South Africa, Sunday Tribune.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *