Pretend it is August, the weather is almost unbearable as it is 100 degrees outside and the humidity is high. You wish you could snap your fingers and in an instant, you are home cooling off next to the air conditioner. But in reality, you are currently somewhere in the middle of Manhattan with a plethora of errands to run. You have no car and must use public transportation to get around. You walk down into the subway station, swipe your metro card, push through the turnstile and look up to see that the train you are taking will arrive in approximately 10 minutes. This is irritating, especially since the subway platform is packed with commuters and it feels like 150 degrees underground. There is no where to sit so you must stand. Perspiration begins to make its way down your forehead 8 minutes before the protracted aluminum cart is scheduled to take you to your destination. 10 minutes now seems like an eternity. You are hoping that the train you will get on has air conditioning as well as various seats available so you do not have to stand, or be sandwiched in between two people you do not care to know.
Just as the subway drummers’ performance begins to annoy you, the train arrives. A higher power has just answered your silent prayer. The light down the tunnel resembles the opening of the gates of heaven. The wind that arrived about 30 seconds before the incoming train has made its stop provides you with reassurance that everything is going to work itself out. That is until it becomes apparent that every cart is packed with people, and you now have to accept the fact that you will more than likely have to stand. Fine, as long as the cart is cool, five stops to freedom is nothing you cannot handle, you think to yourself. As the train begins to stop, you begin to see everyone crowd in front of the doors, barely leaving room for the other travelers to get off of the train. That is when you make your move, securing a comfortable spot — prepared to fight the imminent pushing and shoving quarrel that will take place momentarily.
Everyone rushes off and onto the train simultaneously. There are no seats available as you expected. But you manage to somehow grab a hold of one of the silver poles within the subway cart. You are sharing this pole with about six other individuals, with hardly any room for your back, arms and legs to breathe. The ecstasy you imagined has quickly revealed itself as some sort of purgatory. Most notably because the cart is not air conditioned, and it reeks of onions and rancid breath. Just five stops, only five stops you begin to repeat in your head.
“Stand clear of the closing doors please” is on repeat.
Individuals leaning on the door put a halt to that countdown. This occurs about four times until someone yells, “Stop leaning on the damn door!”.
Maybe that is all it took. The train doors officially close and your journey continues.
“He’s got the whole world in his hands, He’s got the whole wide world in his hands, He’s got the whole world in his hands, He’s got the whole world in his hands”.
No, not today you think to yourself. There is no way a singing panhandler is putting on a performance in a packed subway cart. You instantly regret leaving your headphones at home.
“Listen bro, when we get uptown, you know how it goes down. When shawties see the fit, they gonna feel the drip, and then we dip”.
“Yo, you ain’t ever lie bro, and that’s a snapple fact!”
Two young men converse next to you about what seems to be their plans for the night. It does not bother you too much until they both let out laughter which sounds like two hyenas slap-boxing with Mufasa and Simba.
“He’s got the itty bitty babies, in his hands” the panhandler continues.
“Whaa, whaa, whaa, whaaa, whaaaa”
Perfect timing, the women sitting down in front of you begins trying to console her baby as the weeping only becomes louder and louder. And so does the smell of a diaper which needs immediate changing. And then the train suddenly stops.
“Attention passengers, we are currently experiencing a delay. There is train traffic ahead of us. We will begin moving shortly. We thank you for your patience.” the train conductor communicates.
“Oh nah. This ain’t it bro. We only got like 20 minutes before that sneaker spot closes on 125th”
“Imma be so tight if we don’t get moving, bro”
“Yo facts bro, I need my drip for the night”
In harmony they yell, “FACTS”.
“He’s got the whole world in his hands”
“whaaaaaaaa, whaaaa, whaaaaaaa”
“Attention passengers, we are still experiencing traffic ahead, thank you for your patience”
You close your eyes and begin to mumble underneath your breath. This packed, noisy, stagnant, and hot subway cart is doing something to your soul. For the next 15 minutes you keep your eyes closed, cursing out all those who dare to interrupt your travels on such an already irritable day.
Moments later you open your eyes. You realize the train is moving again, the subway cart is less packed, and the noise level has diminished.
You look up at the automated map and realize you were supposed to get off three stops ago.
“Hello, everyone, my name is Carl. I work for a non-profit organization, and my goal is to hand out as many sandwiches as I can. Now, although not required, a donation of a dollar would very much be appreciated. As this helps to…”
And so it begins, again.
Our current media climate, in my conception, is analogous to the feeling of being on a hot, packed and noisy train. The subway system draws in many individuals from diverse backgrounds within a confined space. This sort of environment is a breeding ground for conflict. Think about it. Would you be happy being inside a small, hot and crowded room with hardly any space to breathe? Especially with people you do not know? You would more than likely become sick and tired of the individuals you are around. This is the same reason why you typically see high crime rates in big cities compared to small rural areas. It is a pretty simple concept. High population + small living spaces = more opportunity for conflict.
Today, many Americans consume media at an accelerated rate thanks to advancing technology. And since people are home “bored” in quarantine, with nothing to do, many have turned to social media to shake off the boredom bug. Being able to connect with an innumerable amount of people all around the world during a time of social upheaval does not better a society. But in actuality, is a detriment to the foundation of said society. This is simply because the events portrayed in the media are bite size depictions of real events. Since you cannot physically witness all of the forces at play which led up to the event shown to you through videos, articles, Twitter, Facebook, the news and etc, you are forced to make judgments based off of your own experience and or the opinion of the individual(s) who have put forth the information.
The internet has the ability to draw vast amounts of people into this space where the world appears smaller than it actually is. Folks in Utah have access to what is happening in New York. Isabella from London can share her political beliefs with people who live in Canada. Undoubtedly, there are many positives in being able to have an abundance of information at your finger tips. This fact is not being argued. But one must also consider the negatives. Consideration of the negative effects the internet bubble has on society is something which has been discussed by various individuals in both the past and present. But yet and still, these considerations seem to be put on the back burner in the name of “progress”. Discussions surrounding the negative effects of media and technology often make the messenger seem like a technological pessimist. Or one who does not want to adapt to change, and wishes to go back to the bygone era of print culture. The argument I am attempting to make is not centered around throwing technology away in hopes of reliving the past. The point of this piece is to question how media and technology affects society in order to allow individuals to critically think about how the tools they use also uses them.
2020 has been deemed as such a terrible year. Due to COVID-19, the riots, political upheaval, the economic downturn, and the deaths of some celebrated individuals — 2021 can’t come sooner for many people. The flaw in this assumption is the fact that all of the aforementioned issues have always, and will always take place all around the world. Deadly viruses are nothing new, rioting is nothing new, political upheaval is nothing new, economic downturns are nothing new, and death is always a guarantee. So why does it seem like 2020 is one of the worst years on record? This is because we now live in a world where everything seems to be happening all at once. Information about these occurrences are constantly bombarding your news feed on your phone, TV, through social media and etc. This sort of information overload is not healthy for the individual. Especially when many social issues are simply out of your hands. We no longer live in a world where working in a factory, at least here in America, is a job which most Americans do. The industrial era is far gone. We are shifting from the selling of goods, to the selling of information. TV news exist solely to sell consumers information. If the news only sold information relevant to the state or city in which the news outlet is situated, the news would hardly have anything to sell you and advertisers would not find it advantageous to pay these corporations big bucks. This is why, although you may live in Texas, a shooting or a hurricane which may have occurred in Pennsylvania will be covered during the evening news. It’s interesting to see how governing officials of a particular state have based how they handle the spread of COVID-19 on data they received from a state other than their own. The spread of COVID-19 in a dense state like New York cannot be entirely compared to a more spacious state like Florida. A shooting which occurred in Minnesota for some reason now holds precedence in 49 other states where the shooting did not occur. The economic downturn in New York has now become a problem which must be addressed in Tennessee. We live in a time where events seen thousands of miles away from the individual viewing the information, appears so close, one may feel inclined to take some sort of action.
The individual is now beginning to take on the role of the news anchor. People are one video away from being angered by something which was shared to them by someone they do or do not follow on social media. A police shooting in Kansas is now indicative of a police shooting in California, although the context and intricacies of both situations are different. The way in which one set of parents are raising their child seems oppressive now that so many other children around the world can share what their parents allow and do not allow them to do. Social media is a breeding ground for drama, trivialities and amusement. Heroic acts and positivity is undoubtedly appreciated, but drama is vastly more appealing. People are bored, and educational information which could be applied to ones life is not nearly as entertaining as the doom and gloom stories shared through media. And just like a packed subway cart, there are so many people with different viewpoints cramped together within the internet bubble. Over 85% of Americans have access to the internet. There are roughly 328 million Americans living in America, but interestingly enough, most people know the same popular dances, memes, music, and decontextualized news stories as the person who lives thousands of miles away from them.
Individuals need to begin to think critically about what they are consuming through the media. Was that information important? Why do I believe this information is important? Or is it important to the creator? Are these truly my own sentiments, or do they belong to someone else? If I do not have full context of a given situation, is it feasible for me to take action? If you choose to get on a packed subway cart, are the people around you truly annoying, or have you lost scope of the fact that you made the choice to put yourself in that environment?