The irony about living in a first world country is that while those in the throes of poverty worry about whether they will find enough food to survive the next day, we instead spend most of our time obsessing over what we should eat next. And instead of having to worry about whether we might be a victim of violence or crime, we puzzle over how best not to lose a life on a hand-phone video game. Oddly, the most important survival skill in a modern world isn’t so much about staying alive as it is about finding the next big thing that grabs our attention. Left to our own devices, and if trends and memes are any indication, the majority of people are constantly gravitating towards new fads.
In fact, there’s an argument to be had that what’s the current trend may not be particularly interesting but nonetheless, many people feel obligated to be part of a larger group determined to ride this modern high. In short, it feels good only because everyone is doing it. This group identity gives participants a sense of being part of something larger than life even if the activity itself may not necessarily be a quality experience. The throngs of people who flocked to playing Pokemon GO did so not because it offered the best gameplay on the market, (you will easily find a great deal of games that are mechanically far more dynamic, polished and engaging on virtually any platform) but because not participating in this social phenomenon is like giving up an exclusive ticket to a higher social echelon.
Or consider that Twitch streaming (and other similar services) allows you to watch someone through video on demand so that you can be entertained by what the streamer is doing right now. Rather than spending time giving thought to the quality of life we should aspire towards, we would much rather follow the antics of a streamer or youtuber through their videos, photos and tweets. Instead of working towards developing an independent point of view, we are far more likely to track their little bits of gossip and in the process, also adopt their perspectives. It’s somewhat puzzling that we would have more interest in following the lives of others or chasing down the latest trend as opposed to using this information to reboot ourselves.
There’s also something to be said when many people in different parts of the world are, at this very moment, starving to death and in sharp contrast, tens of thousand of viewers are simultaneously tuning into a streamer who sit in front of an abundant buffet of exotic food, gorges himself, and tries to give you his entertaining appraisal of fine dining. This isn’t a disparagement of the format itself – a modernised world has different needs that requires new industries and innovation to meet. But isn’t it funny that neither our attention, satisfaction or happiness are properly satisfied despite the seemingly limitless entertainment choices in front of us? We simply move on to the next new thing, from fad to fad, video to video, and so our attention wanders again.
So have you thought about (HYTA) the funny thing about living in a developed country?