Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

The ‘Stuff I Care About’

As I’m sitting here with my morning coffee I am perusing the latest news, but not the kind you get on a massive wad of thin recycled paper, I mean the digital kind. For some reason I know more about the world and this includes the politics, obituaries, film releases and social updates that I never cared to know about in such detail before. But how is this different to a traditional newspaper?

Before getting Pulse News app on my iPad, I really despised the news. I hated the horrible way that people I knew would say ‘oh I really must watch the news’ and ‘i need to know what’s going on’ and ‘why don’t you read the newspaper, you ignorant &£@!?*. Yes, I am constantly surrounded by people who are convinced that reading a newspaper, and i’m talking about obnoxious class-A Broadsheet morons, is a necessity.

It’s not.

Or perhaps that’s a little too harsh. True, complete ignorance can end you up in trouble if you miss the announcement that your country is going to war, or that hurricane Tom, Dick and Windy is coming your way. But why assume that someone who isn’t reading this or that ‘Times’ knows less about the world than you?

Because a collectively understood ‘Stuff You Should Care About’ makes people feel comforted. No one likes to feel guilty about the world tragedies that they’re doing nothing to fix, so why not read about it? Why not brag to your friends that you’re also ‘in the know’ about what the news told you to care about today? Well, if you can humbly admit to yourself that maybe some or any of this applies to you, you needn’t feel guilty about it any longer because a solution is finally showing itself, and it’s called social news.

Through the magical idea of subscription to specific people, topics, trends and articles, we can finally be rid of the moaning culture that permeates our little British Island. Sure i’m still subscribed to the rss feeds of the BBC and the Guardian, protectors of the content that people would love access to, but alongside their feeds I have technology updates, web feeds for Anime and Japanese pop culture, updates from blogs by graphic artists that I can learn from. And now with the Flipboard app, i’m embedding twitter feeds and Facebook updates too. Someone I hardly know shared a link to a small web article which I found inspiring for my own work. He’s not my ‘friend’ in that I’ve actually never met him, but through my sister I’ve spoken to him once and can now read the stories he suggests to his own friends.

But the main motivation for blogging this is the the troubling and fascinating phrase used to advertise the Flipboard app, ‘Stuff I Care About’. To be fair, I suspect that most people, especially serial news readers, don’t even know what they care about. When they’re first presented with the idea it is not only bewildering but probably quite terrifying! Indeed, that’s why I still have the BBC news feed in my Pulse News app. But this phrase also completely exposes us for what we’ve become in the information age. Content hogs, and dangerously of the self-centred kind. Watch, as we individually become more and more like those insular geniuses that think only about topics which matter to them and in so doing simultaneously become both masters of their chosen art and oddities within the society that surround them.

It’s that age old problem that, especially in England, we confuse ‘moaning’ for ‘complaining’. Many, it would seem in my experience, prefer to read concert listings that never show the pieces they’re interested in and complain that ‘nobody cares about contemporary music’ rather than to join the various Facebook groups set up for monthly gigs such a Gabriel Prokofiev’s Non-Classical label and the Kammer Klang series at London’s Cafe Oto. Would we rather read what someone else tells us to, and then moan about it? Or would our lives be any better if we got up and did something about it? I’d say that if you found yourself frustrated by a lack of alternatives for news that today we suddenly have too much choice! Where will I see footage of the earthquake first? BBC news 24 or from a camera phone picture posted on twitter and retweeted thousands of times before the news team has even heard about it?

I conclude by posing the question, are you reading only the stuff you care about? And if so, do you even know what that is? The future of news as selective tragedy-as-entertainment may be coming to an end and in it’s place, wider access to pure, unabridged statistics. But is a society that thinks for itself, and worryingly about itself, something we are ready for? Perhaps you are, and perhaps you aren’t, but more importantly, is this subject really even the stuff you care about?