After discussing the news of the week, The Signal’s Editorial Board felt a prevailing sense of how prescient the movie “The Truman Show” was for today’s society.
For those who haven’t seen the 1998 Jim Carrey movie, the comedy star plays Truman Burbank, who discovers he was raised by a corporation, and his entire life so far has been a show for others’ amusement.
And to think, the movie was conceived about 10 years before the advent of Twitter, and premiered 13 years before the advent of SnapChat, the channel through which we’ve been able to capture a series of dramatic, real-life incidents in the last few months, ranging from vandalism to fist fights to a DUI crash.
We watched in shock and horror as two teenagers engaged in a clearly pre-arranged fight in the most public of places, the parking lot of a popular drive-thru restaurant on a Friday night in the middle of town.
Within a week, we had more shocking footage given to us: someone had obtained and shared footage from inside a car before a possible, but still under-investigation DUI crash that left several young people injured.
Aspersions were cast and judgments made in the time it took to watch the brief video.
“Social” media has empowered everyone, it seems sometimes, into one of two categories — a member of the media, or a seasoned media critic.
These bona fides are in some cases justified by thousands of hours of YouTube, Instagram and Facebook viewing and resulting discussion.
But while we’re watching and recording everything, what’s easy to lose sight of is perspective and humanity.
We’re not oblivious to the fact that outrage associated with how technology changes behavior has literally been around since the time of the Luddites, who revolted over their early 19th century fears that industrialization and machinery were taking their jobs. Boy would they feel silly if they could see themselves on YouTube now.
So we’re not engaging in some sort of pointless lecture on how “Things have changed,” but more so to make people aware of how things are changing, and why it matters.
We risk losing sight of our sense of self, responsibility and humanity if we don’t stop to consider whether we should film something, alert the authorities or contact a loved one.
Shoot first and ask questions later is the new way of life on social media, but it’s well past time to ask questions.
For one, the lines of reality are blurring, and the deluge of media being put out there is also leaving many in danger of over-reacting, or perhaps, worse, the apathy that our overexposure brings, to the point where compassion has been replaced by our need to film something, lest we involve ourselves and actually prevent the bad thing we’re about to see and record happen.
We don’t think society or human nature has fundamentally changed, but our conditioning for instantly going to the phone-camera or to post a comment, needs to.
We need to do more than feign concern with comments in a thread, we need to demonstrate actual concern.
In light of all the things we’ve seen in the past couple weeks, maybe we should all focus more on the social part and less on the media.
Maybe that seems strange coming from a media outlet; but after all, the times they are a-changin’.