It’s not all about attention: read between the posts

Often, when we are presented with something time and time again, the value we give to it diminishes. Say “Internet” 20 times, and we begin to hear it as less of a word, but more of a sound. We pass a shop every day on our way home from school and take it for granted. Similarly, when I see a Facebook post that is the usual witty status update, or pictures of my friend’s trip to the Bahamas, I take no special notice. When I see a picture of a mother tearfully holding up a picture of her son in a military uniform, and the caption reads, “One like = one prayer … Pls help our soldiers!!!”, my focus briefly shifts from mundane updates to larger news.

While they are a great way to get my attention, these posts make me wonder about their legitimacy. How much good does a single “like” actually do? Surely it cannot save a starving child, nor bring a soldier back from war.

What is their real motivation? The response a friend gave me: “All they want is attention—it’s all just a publicity stunt!” But having looked past their superficial desire for public exposure, I believe that if we take time to think carefully about their purpose, these posts could actually serve to call our attention, which is normally focused on trivial events in our mundane lives, to the larger current social issues in the world.

I’ll be honest and say I don’t watch the news, and I’m sure that I can speak on behalf of many high school students when I say that we don’t spend our free time listening to the radio, or watching the BBC, either. Therefore, sites like Facebook, Reddit, and Buzzfeed become our sources of current events. The beauty of this technologically-advanced life we lead is that, some way or another, our awareness of larger issues increases. Exasperatingly scrolling down meaningless jumble and then suddenly seeing a picture or post that depicts harsh realities can shock us into realizing the expanse of the world and call our attention to significant events happening beyond our high school bubble.

In the same way, so many outlets of media aim to reach us in a way that entertains but informs us about sensitive issues.  At the surface, memes are comical and make us laugh, but if we take the time to stop and think about the messages they are trying to convey, we discover an element of satire, mocking the social ills of bullying or the idea of communism. Often, the subliminal messages go unnoticed, and instead teenagers see the post as nothing more than a mere distraction in our virtual world. If we just take a break from the constant onslaught of posts, whether on Facebook or any other site, this simple “One like = one prayer” or meme can become our form of news, a way to bring sensitive topics for our contemplation.

Take comedians Louis C.K. or Russell Peters. They use their humor to shed a more light-hearted approach on issues like race, slavery, and rape, which can be offensive to many. The amount of backlash they get is enormous, including YouTube comments ranging from “hateful” to “disgusting”—and anything in between—but inevitably get the issue publicized. Sometimes we forget that in between the jokes, the mocking, and the stereotypes, there lies a deeper issue that we so often try to avoid, or choose to overlook in favor of a more entertaining alternative, one that perhaps forces us to miss the point. Upon deeper consideration, we must come to realize that these “funny” tidbits that are meant to make us laugh are actually a call for action that is cleverly placed in a form of news that can easily appeal to the masses.

Ultimately, in a world so bombarded with mass media, where pop culture influences our decisions so much, it is only natural that forms of media pertinent to our generation become our news. These little subliminal messages seem to be the easiest way to appeal to the masses. Clearly, these jokes, art, and likes on Facebook are all a source of publicity that bring attention to topics we seem to forget about in our privileged world. While these forms of media are a great way to reach the teenage audience and get a message across, we often don’t consider the ways they increase our awareness on an issue. Before we turn around and laugh, mock, or ignore a work of art for any reason, we should take time to consider the underlying principleand appreciate it, respect it accordingly, and then take action.