The other day in class we discussed the effects of mass media on society and culture. It was very interesting and fun to talk about. We’re currently dissecting a novel called White Noise and it’s about the change in the world and how people have forever started living in a different way than old. With the development in communication technology, there’s no “real” experience anymore. We discussed the effects this has on us compared to the people before us with no technology at all. With the development of the camera, life changed. And I don’t think people realize how long the camera has actually been around and how it really changed everything.
We discussed an essay that’s inside the novel and it’s called “The Most Photographed Barn in America,” and that’s basically what it was. There were 5 signs along the road as you drove to this barn, this spectacle. There were 40 cars in the parking lot and there were people taking pictures of the barn. There were also people selling post cards and other forms of media about the barn. But people didn’t see the barn. It was said that people were taking pictures of taking pictures and that everyone was part of this giant “collective perception.”
Now, the author of this novel had spent some time away from society to live in a world without technology before moving back into the new technology-ruled society of NYC, which was the place the novel was written. He remarks of the “white noise” that engulfs the world and society. When he was experiencing this “most photographed barn,” all he could see what the people feeding on each other’s energy for what was considered something famous. Since it was the most photographed barn, everyone wanted to be a part of the spectacle. People were taking pictures of the barn and you know, people are kind of funny. If they see someone taking a picture of something, they have a tendency to want to follow suit, thus the cycle continues and this barn becomes even more photographed.
There are 2 concepts here: people have a tendency to gravitate towards fame and people have a tendency to romanticize the past.
This barn was somewhat of a commodity, a place of popularity, somewhere you needed to be in order to be “in the loop.” I like to think of this as the beginning of social media. See, that’s how instagram works, to an extent. If you have a picture at the Disneyland castle, just like millions of other people do, then you’re considered in the loop. Your posts are valid if you’re a part of the entire collective. People have an internal desire to showcase all that they own or are capable of doing. People can deny this all they want, but everyone is in some sort of competition with one another. This can also be a reason people use shopping as a form of therapy. Some people feel purchasing something fills a type of void that’s inside of them. It’s interesting. People feel a need to gravitate towards fame because there is a fear of being forgotten or a fear of being irrelevant. Famous people are humans too, just with more wealth; but why people admire them with such passion and seriousness? I’m not sure. I know I’m guilty of this too, though.
The other concept is the idea of romanticizing the past. This culture and society today is saturated in media. Media is something that brings us between what’s internal and what’s reality. It’s a literal wormhole and that’s forever changed the way people operate nowadays. Ever since the creation of the camera and other forms of media, life changed drastically. People are obsessed with getting the perfect shot and to do so, one needs the perfect angle and lighting, among other things. My professor told us a story of a man he saw filming his wife’s birth. This man was filming the birth instead of actually experiencing the birth with his own eyes. He was experiencing it through a lens and that’s exactly the way life is now. Yes, the man was seeing the birth; but he was using media.. although I’m sure he was in disbelief at the moment, he was still distracted in some way with getting the perfect shot or angle that his true, raw experience was limited as he was too caught up trying to capture everything in his piece of technology. This is why there isn’t as much “real” experience anymore. Everything is experienced or felt through a lens or screen. Think of it, cell phones and laptops, tablets and iPods.
How much of your life is mediated? How much of your life is controlled by media? As we were discussing this in class, I felt pretty guilty because I had my laptop, cell phone, and tablet all on my desk. I am constantly using media and I’m not ashamed; though I’m not sure people realize how often they succumb to the effects of it. I’m always watching TV or blogging or texting or taking pictures for instagram. My life is probably 90% mediated and that’s just the culture I live in today. I was born with technology and raised with it. It’s a part of me as I am a millennial. I was born into the generation that was able to access the world’s information in a matter of seconds.
In summation, the way media has influenced the world has created something that’s called “white noise.” White noise is the static, filler noise that never goes away and it’s there to fill the silence that forever “plagued” the world of old. People have a fear of death. That’s where this all starts. So this white noise distracts us from our own thoughts as it’s too loud to think of anything else. It’s a filler for insecurity and it’s definitely had major effects on people today. Technology is only beginning, so it will be interesting to see how people will change in the future.