Radio personality Paul Harvey, who is probably best remembered for his catch phrase, “and now you know the rest of the story,” for years brought to the American public stories that were interesting and inspiring. I can remember hearing his radio segments as a youngster growing up. What many don’t remember about him was his broadcasting style used during his days doing radio news.
During his radio news broadcasts he sometimes did stories in which someone had done something offensive or ridiculous. He would conclude these stories by saying, “he would want us to mention his name,” followed by a short silence… then he would begin the next news story. What a simple, yet powerful concept!
Think about the society we live in today. In our culture, the news media spends countless hours (thanks to the 24-hour news network concept) reporting violent crimes such as assaults, batteries, armed robberies, home invasions, kidnappings, drive-by shootings, sexual assaults, bombings, school shootings and murders. In all of that news reporting, have you once heard the news media withhold the name of the perpetrator? I haven’t.
How many times have we heard a news story where the person in custody for the crime was obviously enjoying being in the limelight? It happens more often than we would like to admit. It’s not that the news media is making a conscious decision to glorify the crime and provide the criminal with the attention they desire, but it still happens nonetheless. What would happen if news outlets would take a page from Paul Harvey and report these stories while withholding the offenders’ identity, by name picture or video? It might just prevent some attention-starved, amoral individuals from planning and committing crimes that result in tragedy and death for many innocent people.
In a similar way, our society glorifies stupidity. It wasn’t that way when I was growing up. There were class clowns and they were happy to do idiotic things to get the attention of their classmates. There will always be those people in our society that crave attention, be it attention for positive behavior, negative behavior, or moronic behavior. But back then they had a very limited audience and thus didn’t carry their idiotic escapades to he degree people do today.
Social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc has provided a large, even worldwide audience for today’s class clown. Now they are not limited to just being class clown but can now aspire to the level of trending, viral, or even reality tv star, thanks to the internet and social media. With these higher stakes and the consuming hunger for social popularity, the ante has been upped. Now instead of just doing funny or stupid acts, they have to do more extreme things in order to make a blip on the social media radar. These acts have progressed from being simply idiotic, to being outright dangerous and life-threatening to themselves and often to others. I see no logical end in sight. I don’t even want to think of the horrific things that will be broadcast over social media in the years to come, in the name of fame, infamy, and popularity.
I don’t think social media is all bad, but I think that much of it could be called “socially-irresponsible media.” The reason that this behavior has escalated is that it has been glorified in all types of media. A person is much less likely to do something irresponsible and outrageous without the accolades of a large crowd. Social media provides the large crowd; a crowd on steroids.
Now before we go blaming technology and social media, we need to remember that they are simply tools. The real problem, the underlying problem is us. As people, we click on the videos they make. We “like” them. We leave comments on them. We share, retweet, or in some other way, pass these videos on. In short, we are giving these individuals the popularity they have been seeking. Maybe we should take a cue from Paul Harvey and deprive them of the intention they so desperately seek. I may be only 1 of the 7,491,274,037 people in the world, but if I do my part, it’s a start.