Weapons Of Mass Distraction

Weapons Of Mass Distraction

Hundreds of TV channels. Millions of hours of Youtube & TikTok videos. Rolling 24 hour news channels. Hundreds of thousands of apps for your smartphone. Numerous ‘notifications’ from social media networks.

Ever get the feeling you’re being distracted?

Honestly, I wonder sometimes how people find the time to do other ‘meaningful things’, but I guess also that is the main reason for this.

Think about how many times you hear people say “I just don’t have the time”.

And then think about how often you see people walking around or sitting down while staring at the screens on their smartphones.

Sadly we seem to be in an age now where media and technology are no longer ‘enriching’ or enhancing our lives, but for many people, controlling them.

Hundreds of TV channels

Quite aptly, Bruce Springsteen released a song in 1992 called “57 Channels (And Nothin On)”:

At the time here in the UK, unless you were ‘lucky’ enough to have cable or satellite TV, there were just four TV channels available ‘free-to-view’, namely BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4. (Channel Five launched five years later in 1997).

Since the introduction of digital TV broadcasting, there are now hundreds of channels to watch.

I stopped watching broadcast TV a couple of years ago and I have no regrets about cancelling my TV licence. Of course, “The Boss” wrote this back in the early 90s lamenting about American cable TV, but it still applies to this day. One only has to scroll through any TV guide on a digital TV or set-top box and what you’ll find is that despite the hundreds of channels available, they all show the ‘same old shit’ every day all day, and most of them just end up showing the same stuff again a few days later.

Think about all the hundreds of thousands of hours of ‘classic TV’ shows that rarely or never get shown again, then you’ll notice its just the odd few ‘select’ shows that make regular appearances.

Daytime telly now is a mix of old gameshows, ‘bargain hunters’, and ‘property seekers’. Then of course there are the ‘panel’ discussion programmes.

It’s probably no surprise that there is such a great uptake now of on-demand streaming services, because people want to watch the shows they want to watch ‘right now’ without having to wait until the time they are scheduled to be broadcast.

But then again, this makes it easier for people to “binge-watch” whole series or ‘box-sets’ in one sitting.

Millions of hours of Youtube & TikTok videos

Two phrases that really annoy me now are “content creator” and “influencer”.

Youtube allowed almost anyone to make videos and upload them, to be shared and commented on by other users. You can set up a ‘channel’ and for those who play nicely with the rules, you can even make money by ‘monetising’ your videos, which means Youtube shows ads within them.

While there are a good number of people who do produce genuinely interesting or entertaining videos, there are equally a vast number of people ‘churning out’ any old dross. YouTube loves these ‘content creators’ because they are just doing exactly that, ‘creating content’ which Youtube can then tack on adverts that it makes money from. Remember Youtube doesn’t create any ‘original content’ of its own.

And then we have TikTok, it’s format is geared more towards shorter videos, thus catering to those with very short attention spans. But in my opinion TikTok is a social engineering project, some people are so desperate for the attention that they’ll post a video about any old shit.

And then of course there are the ‘influencers’. The word itself sends a shudder down my spine, knowing what I have learned about social engineering and propaganda. To many people, ‘influencer’ just means a “popular social media celebrity”, someone who has somehow amassed a huge following by posting a load of shit videos which have been ‘shared and liked’ by a large number of people with nothing better to do with their time.

Youtubers and TikTokers who gain large followings become ‘influencers’ when they are noticed, and then big companies start paying or ‘sponsoring’ them in order to promote their products, or to ‘sell a message’.

Compared to broadcast TV or even streaming TV services, there are probably millions of hours of videos to watch on both Youtube and TikTok. Does anyone REALLY have the time to sit and watch endless hours of documentaries and podcast discussions?

Rolling 24 hour news channels

You’d think with all this time available, channels dedicated to ‘the news’ would be able to cover loads of stories, but yet one pattern you’ll notice with any 24hr news channel around the world, is that it is generally the same four or five ‘big stories’ that get all the coverage and attention, and no matter which channel you switch to, its the same thing being covered or featured there.

It’s basically the “Nine O’Clock News’ being repeated on the hour, every hour.

And you often find that the ‘reports’ are from reporters or commentators who just tend to ‘waffle on’ or just ‘speculate’ about “the nature of the thing”. “Could, maybe, possible” and all that, as I have written about before.

Hundreds of thousands of apps for your smartphone

I have a smartphone, I’ve had the same one for a few years now, as it works perfectly and I haven’t felt the need to ‘upgrade’ to a newer model.

I can make and receive phone calls and text messages, and I can pick up emails, and I can do other things like plan a journey on Maps, or check what time a bus is coming. But most of the time, my phone is in my pocket, and only comes out when I really need to use it.

I see so many people around now who seem almost dependent on their phones.

The Ood, from Doctor Who, with their brain replacement control device, and a modern human with…

It’s in their hand almost all of the time, constantly being checked for ‘notifications’ and ‘updates’, as well as being used as a substitute bank card or travel pass, and a constant connection to ‘the internet’ so they can tell all their followers about what they’re doing, “just had a great shit” etc. Listening to music or podcasts, or watching the hours of video they’ve been ‘recommended’ to watch, or just browsing on Amazon or other shops to buy stuff that’s ‘recommended’ etc.

Oh and of course most smartphones are also cameras, so you have these narcissists constantly taking ‘selfies’ of themselves, or taking photos of their dinner, can you believe many people go to music concerts or events and then film everything?

“There’s an app for that” – yes, while there are some genuinely useful smartphone apps out there, it seems there are also a lot of useless tat, as well as apps that just basically replicate website functions, so for example instead of just going to the Deliveroo website, you just ‘use the app’!

I genuinely think we’ll soon reach a point where people no longer access the internet through a browser, but it will all be done via ‘apps’, which of course are still loaded with adverts and tracking/data harvesting.

Numerous ‘notifications’ from social media networks

Not just from social media, one thing that annoys me with my smartphone, and increasingly my Windows desktop PC (yes, I know I should use Linux, but “reasons”) are ‘notifications’ and other such ‘alerts’.

For many people, when they hear the notification sound on their phone, their first compulsion is to pick it up and look to see what it is. (In most cases, my first reaction is to mutter “oh fuck off”)

Ever get the feeling you’re being distracted?

I ask this question again, just in case anyone has been distracted by what I have written already!

It’s no wonder that so many people have such short attention spans, or are unable to focus or concentrate on what are probably more important matters, like, your job?

Many people always feel the need to be ‘doing something’, and can’t just take the time to switch off their TV or put down their smartphone, and just stop and think for a while, be lost in ‘your own thoughts’.

My relatively short commute to/from work by bus, is a great time for me, I just sit and ‘people watch’ or just look out the window and observe what’s going on outside. My phone stays in my pocket, and this time is often well spent thinking about things, whether its coming up with ideas for work, pondering over problems/issues, or thinking about what jobs I need to do at home or in the garden.

Some people I know think it is ‘strange’ that I don’t watch TV or Netflix, or ask why I’m not on WhatsApp or Instagram etc and then there are the inevitable questions like “what do you do at home then?”

I do other things. I like to be alone with my own thoughts! I can sit for hours sometimes in my garden, just doing nothing, apart from sitting and relaxing, listening to and watching the wildlife. Or I just go off on random walks and do the same, apart from the sitting and relaxing bit.

Personally I think it is ‘strange’ that people obsess over their smartphones or have nothing better to do than laze around most of the day watching movies and TV shows. And then complain that they have ‘no time’ to do anything else.

But what is it that people are being distracted from? Apart from the above, there are probably more nefarious reasons why governments, social media networks, the mainstream news media and big-tech firms are colluding to keep people distracted by trivia and nonsense. But unless you stop for a moment and think for yourself, you’ll probably never figure out why that is…

Still from John Carpenter’s 1988 move “They Live”