As much as we mock his hairdo, shake our heads at his idiotic antics and scoff at the attention “the media” has given him, as a society, we have a lot to thank Justin Bieber for.
The 19-year-old punk arrested for a DUI and drag racing last week following a year of bad behavior, has become the latest flashy sound bite in a string of bizarre, but increasingly banal, stories that have come to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of what commands the public’s attention and that have come to be the anchor points we rely on for human connection.
Essentially, the Biebs has given us something to post about in a communication landscape in which meaningful interactions have been reduced to “likes,” “shares,” and “retweets.”
Whether the blame should fall on Twitter for keeping our interest span in the lives of those around us limited to 140 characters, or a ratings-driven news cycle that pushes the stories that viewers, listeners and readers like to consume to the forefront of our consciousness, the fact of the matter is that stories such as Bieber’s tomfoolery, Kim Kardashian’s latest episode of cattiness or fill-in-the-blank-celebrity’s latest nude photos leaking, serve a function in our lives.
These are stories that are shared more than most via social media, which has greatly changed the landscape of social interaction.
Regardless of why it is, these stories are popular for a reason, and the function they serve in our lives is worthy of examination.
Perhaps because of their sheer ability to unite an increasingly fragmented society, or because in a world in which a blue thumb or an orange star are sufficient methods of acknowledging “friend,” or one of the 510 individuals the average 18 to 24-year-old is connected to by a set of algorithms, these stories of decidedly unilateral opinions seem to offer easy entry points for conversation. These stories are simply greater acknowledgements of the human condition that increasingly reinforce their presence in the media, which in turn becomes a talking point to criticize.
But before we “LOL” to widespread audiences again about how ridiculous Bieber’s mugshot looks or fall into the insipid discussion of media bashing, perhaps it’s worthy of considering what these stories say about us, and the interactions we seek out in a communication world which is becoming ever less #meaningful.
Divya Kumar is a senior majoring in mass communications and economics.