Finding Content in a World of Hype
In the July/August 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine the lead story’s topic is how Steve Jobs led Apple Computers to enormous success. Author Farhad Manjoo distilled the principal actions he took into seven maxims, one of those being the cliché “everything is marketing”.
That phrase stuck like a commercial jingle and pushed a new level of awareness rudely into my face. Driving from work the road side signs pulled at me as the radio extolled the tasty virtues of Burger Kings new ‘Bourbon Burger’. At home the newspaper pushed its slanted perspectives at me like my mother in law trying to sneakily manipulate me into agreeing with some sort of uber family nonsense. The TV literally sang and danced about the products that would certainly turn my life into a show tune, filled with improbably attractive, sexually suggestive (and a bit on the thin side) love interests. My computer home page offered no relief as it simmered and bubbled with pop up windows and embedded ads, even my cyber-social network Facebook was awash with ads and suggestions. Yuk.
Because of that cliché I realized that part of my mind has automatically been occupied avoiding these seductive messages and has been on an unconscious quest for content: A battle to keep my mind my own and filled with the real stuff of life, not the suggestive fluff that’s constantly shoveled at us. Most of us do this ‘hype filtering’ quite consciously in our work or with the special interests we have. I write frequently on the subject of dealing with manipulative people (Two Legged Snakes) and their techniques and I glean the fact from the fluff aggressively in that realm. But what I’m talking about in this blog is a quieter, more subtle war. I believe many of us use our Reticular Activating System, (the part of our brain that determines what we need to be aware of), to determine what might lead to connections that are likely to be content rich. Like an immune system that works to keep out the hype this ‘programming’ looks for friends who are genuine and interesting, songs that have guts and books that tell the truth. Articles, movies, TV shows and social groups are sought that are honest and intelligent and leave you glad you spent the time with them. Perhaps that’s what a lot of us are ‘hunting and gathering’ these days: Content; reality, quality, truthfulness and humanity.
I’m optimistic that I’m not alone when it comes to this quest for authenticity. Currently my favorite TV shows is Lie to Me, where Tim Roth deftly portrays an eccentric psychologist who is expert in determining who is telling the truth. It’s a very content heavy show that delves into many of the dilemmas we all face, from managing our relationships to finding our best individual paths and so forth. While it’s far from perfect and occasionally dips into the typical story line topics and devices of the day, generally there’s a lot more depth and honesty than you get from most programs and it’s growing and very dedicated audience is perhaps proof that many of us are on a similar hunt for content and are fighting the good fight against the fluff majore.