In this day and age, we are hyperaware of our extended surroundings. The whole world is now our backyard, and within hours, we can learn about what’s going on in any of its nooks or crannies. Because of this, thoughts now travel between us at the speed of light. And although useful, it’s kind of fucking annoying.
Hyperawareness has been instrumental in prolonging the existence of our species. It’s not necessarily inherent, or directly reasonable that treating the Earth like a giant shit can has consequences on our health and the survivability of our offspring. For all we knew, the Earth was infinite and resilient to our activities (and to an extent it is). Now we know and it seems obvious. Likewise, we could have ignored the plights of the gays, the blacks, the natives, the Jews, the Palestinians, those with cancer or Parkinsons, the panda bear and the white rhino. We could have foregone keeping the Internet free or having children well fed and in school. Thanks to the work of many brilliant minds however, we discovered these issues and started accommodating them. This is most certainly a good thing.
But being hyperaware is both exhausting and exasperating. It’s kind of like having a very finicky fire alarm that goes off all the time, especially when you’re only trying to cook beef stroganoff in a non non-stick pan. I feel that it has all become a tad ridiculous, to the point that I’m actually discussing our awareness of how aware we are. On the surface, it’s just us being bombarded with all types of feeds. Stuff’s going on all around the world and we’re almost obliged to know about it. I think most people would be tempted to point the finger at the media, specifically the American media. Ironically, it’s our hyperawareness that leads us to this conclusion.
More prominent than the actual events and stories we hear about though, are our thoughts and emotions on these occurrences. For every accident, heroic act, loss or victory, there’s twenty articles and a thousand comments discussing a stupid aspect of said accident, heroic act, loss or victory. Here we point the finger at social media, in particular Twitter (disclosure: I hate twitter). Some of our most beloved outlets however, are also culprit. Humans of New York is such an example. I personally really enjoy reading the stories on HONY. The author does a pretty good job of balancing bias while trying to make the subjects look empathy worthy. But Christ, everyone empathizes the fuck out of them, to the point that we can’t say anything critical about the topic. Everyone tries to infer some deep theme out of each picture. “I JUST WANT THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE TO KNOW IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT”, “THIS MAN IS HONOR AND REPRESENTS WHAT AMERICA IS REALLY ABOUT” (No I’m not an America hater or anything. I rather like America, but HONY typically takes place in New York). Like fuck, that dude doesn’t represent shit, what a burden to put on him? There are some exceptional stories, but most of them are regular people that have regular stuff going on in their lives. Although it’s nice for them be flattered like that, we should stop, because it’s dishonest. We’re feeling false emotions as a result. Most of all, we’re doing this shit to make ourselves feel better for being normal people.
Because of our hyperaware society, a horde of keyboard warriors are dictating how we should feel about everything. Usually it’s some combination of guilt, surprise, fear and lack of fulfillment. Everyday, we’re supposed to be in a brand new world, with our lives irrevocably changed for ever. While if you choose to be very literal, it does hold true, but realistically speaking, most of you probably have the same great life you had six months ago. If our lives were not so comfortable, we wouldn’t have keyboard warriors telling us what’s up.
600 years ago, there was evidently some awareness of the really visible issues such as poverty (income disparity), famine, plagues, the status of your rulers, or any wars that your national military partook in. These were the issues that were affecting you in the near future or immediately. There was also probably some limited understanding of societal issues that had less of a direct affect on you. These might include witches or the repealing/enactment of laws conferring people rights and benefits. There was probably some stupid stuff that was spread around. I remember learning in my Christianity and Sexuality class that there was quite a bit of hysteria about masturbation, starting something in the 18th century, all because some dick wanted to make a killing selling meds.
Eventually came mass literacy and radio and we then started to instantly communicate to each other developments that were happening across the world. We were still however limited in access to quick transport, so we couldn’t always set up full ground operations to feed the hungry masses tuned to the radio. More importantly, it was easy enough to hear out someone talking on the radio, but it was much more difficult to disseminate your word on the radio (or elsewhere). Due to the lack of interactivity, the bond between radio and audience was also rather passive. Even having it turned on all day, you wouldn’t always have shit on that would keep you glued to it (unless it was WWII, which is pretty good thing to be aware about).
Communication and transportation developed dramatically and the rest is history. Now we’re here. Like I was saying earlier, It’s obviously a good thing that we’re able to relate to the hardships of the little Afghani boys being used as sex toys or the age old tradition of otter fishing in Bangladesh dying out. Although most of our attention ends up turning to inaction, I suppose it could be comforting to the subjects of the issues we cover that we empathize with them. “Someone’s hearing you bro, you’re not alone.” Those of you who are religious might be able to relate. I feel as if it’s kind of like knowing that God (gods/angels/whatever) is looking down on you during your toughest times, even when everyone else thinks you’re fine.
Still, it’s kind of fucking annoying. There’s a whole ton of shit vying for our attention. At the end of the day, our empathy for the rest of the world is a mere hobby (unless you’re a journalist or blogger of sorts, where it might actually be a career). As Dale Carnegie put it: “His toothache matters more to him than a famine in China that kills a million people. A boil on his neck interests him more than forty earthquakes in Africa.”
Everyday we hear more about things that are not really issues at all. Celebrities are not the worst of it. I’m not even going to mention an example, because I’ll get accused of not having sympathies. We’re not hearing about what’s essential or close to essential, like we did in the past. Or if we are, we’re getting it covered with all this other shit. It would be really nice if we could just witness or be recounted things as they happened, rather than through a voice. Sometimes, it’s just nice to be able to appreciate things instead of having to think about them too much.
Whichever technological (or societal?) innovation is first to give us unadulterated news and events as they happen will solve the miserable state of our consciousness as it stands. This would essentially make us omnipresent and more hyperaware than ever before. Despite this, we’ll be calmer and wiser about how we’re affected by the world as a whole.