As you may know if you follow me on social media or check this column every week, I am one of those insufferable souls who constantly complains that people are reading and sharing totally useless, vapid clickbait and garbage, all while while ignoring demonstrably more important things. As a simple example of said phenomenon, I might point to the obsession with that poor deceased dog Puppy Doe, compared to, say, the utter lack of interest in topics like health care, campaign finance, homelessness, surveillance, and any number of other issues that, in my best guess, must be even harder for most people to acknowledge than animal abuse, or else we would hear about them daily.
So, why do so many folks shy away from sharing articles about controversial topics, or at least ones that have yet to be reduced and cheapened to a meme or blog post farted out by some venture-backed national news aggregator? For starters, we live in a society where it is an accepted cliche that one shouldn’t address politics or God around the family dinner table; with the mindset that we shouldn’t even challenge those whom we share holidays and genes with, people will always be quick to shirk their civic duty to engage with monsters, as well as the comfortably apathetic, when they are out in public. While this hypothesis may dampen countless less-than-funny late-night talk show punchlines and reactive observations about how contemporary cultures clash throughout the interwebs in fashions that were never past imagined, it nonetheless makes sense if you consider how most people will do anything to avoid confrontation in real life.
A similar but certainly distinct dynamic fueling passive attitudes toward sharing damning independent articles is akin to how young teens in middle school pretend they are stupid in class, largely out of fear that people will make fun of them for being smart and knowing stuff. It’s some juvenile shit for sure, but I also feel it is the primary hurdle in getting the brainier readers who truly admire the hard-hitting work that we do to then go and spread the good word. This planet’s run by animals and imbeciles, and there is nothing they hate more than people with brains and compassion who question their comfortable existences.
As a result, we share articles about how some guy broke into the home of Rob Gronkowski and about pseudo events that summon our wildest nightmares. We ruminate for fucking weeks about the silly tattoo on Ben Affleck’s back, and of course share headlines such as “Drinking red wine mixed with prune juice makes you live a whole lot longer.”
Sounds like a lot of shit to me.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.