It’s a solo world now

The “me” generations have morphed into the “my own little world” society. What is happening across the globe are retrenchments politically, the rise of dictators and tyrants (the ultimate “my own world” perspective), splits of unions big and small (nations and work forces), everything the individual wants becoming accessible (from Tinder to on-line divorce) and, never least a general distancing from family and friends, relatives and siblings, as the individual surrounds him/herself with modern tools allowing only a singular personal perspective.

Television was a water cooler discussion until the advent of VCR and then DVR. If you missed a recent episode of the most popular show friends could clue you in on the morning after — they all would have watched it at the same shared moment in time. Electricity companies could tell when a popular show was coming on because dinner would be prepared just before. Sanitation companies could predict flow during commercials. 

Marshall McLuhan predicted uniformity of society/thought as these common events happened every day in synch. Does any of that exist anymore? Hardly, sure HBO knew that the water cooler the next day would be on Game of Thrones or a football result, but how many of us have heard, “Don’t tell me, I’ve recorded it...”

Newspapers and television reviewers’ articles often lead with “spoiler alert.” Before 2000, such a phrase was unnecessary since if you missed a TV show broadcast or movie opening, chances are you would miss communal appreciation until reruns or a VCR copy appeared at Blockbuster or the DVD came from Netflix, at which point it was passé anyway. Once you had control of the DVR you could program recording of only those shows you wanted to see, narrowing your input and perspective to your taste, your set-in-stone opinions. 

Once the media moguls figured this out, it was inevitable they would take positions, sides if you will. They need eyeballs to sell advertising. Want to guarantee eyeballs? Make sure your viewers are what they label as “loyal” when what they actually mean is self-censored mono-cultured.

Of course, the channel surfer is the antithesis of that mon-culture. Maybe channel surfing is not a bad metaphor for being open-minded. And yet, then along came the next nail in the coffin: the smart phone… more next week.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.