As I sat down last night to watch the premiere episode of Game of Thrones (a series characterized by casual sex and violence. Hey, I had to see what all the fuss was about), I paused to wonder, Why has TV become the dominant art form of our time, as opposed to say, movies or theater? Is it because we can watch TV in the privacy of our own homes (or on our laptops or cell phones) as opposed to having to go to a theater and having to deal with, you know, people?
Then I realized: We’ve constructed an entire society designed to deal with people at arms’ length.
Think about it: email, cell phones, the Internet, blogging, online dating, online pornography: all designed to keep people at arms’ length, all designed to turn people into things that can be “managed.”
But it goes further than that.
Look at what’s happening in the world today as we happily gorge ourselves on “must see TV,” as we brag about consuming entire series in an evening: Global warming, genocide, gun violence spinning out of control, the Supreme Court usurping our rights as individuals. All this is taking place right under our noses and what do we talk about? What’s on the evening news and in our newspapers and magazines? Kim Kardashian and Honey Boo Boo.
This desensitization has filtered down into our daily lives and we accept it as normal.
I think about my current job search, for example. I recently had an interview where the interviewer promised to call me back “either way” (meaning whether or not I got hired), and I remember being shocked to hear him say that, because nowadays businesses usually don’t bother to call you back at all. (Needless to say, he never called.)
I had another company ask me for a phone interview and never call me back to set up a date and time. Who does that? (Answer: More people than you’d expect.)
And I don’t even want to talk about the hundreds of resumes I’ve sent out or the dozens of requests for job leads or information I’ve made that never get any response whatsoever.
Now I know it might seem silly to compare people being unprofessional to genocide, but the point is, we’ve come to accept both situations as normal.
People crossing the street against traffic yakking away on their cell phones and then looking at the drivers honking their horns at them as if they’re crazy: normal. Dozens of buff, muscular guys working out in a gym together, staring at themselves in the mirror but barely interacting with each other: normal. A subway car full of people, each seemingly mesmerized by his own cell phone/iPad/laptop: normal.
It seems to me that we’ve become experts at “managing” people on screens (TV, computer, cell phone) but a complete failure at dealing with them in real life.