Thursday, December 15, 2016

Everything Is Hype (And Why It Matters)

Back in the "old days" -- and, yes, I know saying that well demonstrates my advancing years -- only BIG news got BIG headlines.

And by "big" I mean big.  Like this...

No longer.

Today everything is a big deal. Everything is hyped. Everything is designed to take your breath away or get your heart pounding. Yes, everything.

Now to the quite young -- and by this I wish I could be referring merely to actual "children, but, alas, no - everything is "big" even if it is small; commonplace.  "Wow! Tomorrow I turn two!"

Thus when bad things happen -- the dog dies for instance -- parents of young children have to deliver the news carefully. And with a bit of sweetener.

I still remember when I was about five my older sister's kitten died. My parents told us they'd taken it to the veterinarian (she knew that) and that it had "run away."

Uhuh.  (If I believed it then would I remember their saying it so clearly now?)

But when dealing with children such at least seems necessary.

No longer.  Today college kids, too, need to have reality broken to them very, very gently. And the news breaker has to be prepared for what may come. (A copious supply of Play-Doh is said to help. Along with available counselors.)

Maybe that is because the big and the small are today confused.  The small is made big.

Take the current cold period.

Is it "cold" out? Yes it is. Fourteen degrees f. (-10 c)  Cold enough that one better wear gloves and keep the ears covered.  Especially as it is also windy. But really, is that a big, big deal?

No.  The fact is that we have on numerous occasions seen temperatures 'round here of minus 14 f.  And colder.  That's -25 for those used to the centigrade scale.  Perhaps that is 'a biggie', but if so it's a not rare one.  As I said, we've seen it many times.

Yet from the POV of the headline writers our present temperature is a big deal.  Big enough that the networks and newspapers have been hyping its supposedly dangerous coming for days. And now that's it's here -- 14 degrees! -- they are writing about the tragic consequences.

I.e,, one person somewhere in the mid-west is said to have died of exposure.

Now I'd not want to make light of a single death or the pain that came with it.  Yes, every life is precious -- especially to that someone and their family and friends.  But in truth, is there ever a day when someone does not die?  No. And in a nation of 300,000,000+ such tragedies are, and will remain, common.  Yes, even deaths by exposure. So the thing that is creating the headline and the News Flash isn't the newsworthiness of the event, it is the need for the hype.

Does this matter?  Yes.

Most of us know the story of the boy who cried wolf.  And how his calling out to his neighbors, bringing them running day after day when there was no wolf, left him defenseless when an actual wolf showed up.  And so it is today when small news, or no news at all, is hyped.  -Made to appear as something big.

But the dulling of the senses to real newsworthy events -- events that call for immediate awareness and action -- is only part of the problem with the hype. Two others come to mind. Possibly more damaging to society.

The first is mistrust.

Today each supposed news source is using what once would have been called "large type," not because the stories warrant it, but to grab readers.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." -So goes a popular saying.

And it is true.  No one likes to be fooled.

"Made you look! Made you look!" so said the schoolyard smarty pants of old.

Or in its slightly more modern iteration...

What's the effect?  We -- and (hopefully) McFly -- eventually stop looking.

But worse yet, if little things are big, what are bigger things?  Or REALLY big ones?

When commonplace things are described as big we lose, not just our vocabulary to describe truly big things, but -- and this is far more serious -- our emotional ability to deal with them.

How many young people are right now staying indoors because of fear of the cold who could be outside enjoying themselves?

Again, yes, I know it marks my age, but we never worried about the "wind chill factor" when I was a kid.  (Did the phrase even then exist?)  If it was cold we called it "Winter." And then we bundled up and grabbed our sleds. Or we went to school.

Yes, true blizzards kept us home, but only from official functions.  "School is closed! Woohoo! Let's go skating!" Or sledding.

Today mommy won't allow it.  The headlines warn against it. And such are quickly followed by the network nags. -Those pompous know-it-alls who tell parents and teachers -- everybody within the sound of their droning voices -- what "good" parents do. And don't do. What they allow (little it seems) and don't allow (most everything).

What will happen to a generation raised in such an environment?  If the little things get large frightening headlines followed by a thousand "don't dos" how will people -- both adults and young adults -- react if ever a real threat comes?  -One that requires action -- either personal of societal?

To know we just need look at the colleges with their "safe zones" Play-Doh and therapy puppies.

I haven't played with Play-Doh in years.  (Did I ever?)  But I do love puppies.

Still, when the challenges in life come -- and they always will and do -- that is not where I was trained to look.

Hard times will come again.  Maybe very hard times.

Will we as a people be ready?

Or will we just read the headlines?  And hide?

Yes, the hype matters.  IT is a BIG DEAL.

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