Amusing ourselves to death


Some years ago I had a sabbatical and my topic was “Communication in a Post Modern World”.  Now I do not intend to share my findings or lack of them. However I have revisited a book that had a profound influence on me at the time.

Neil Postman’s book, “Amusing ourselves to death” was an analysis on television’s effect on culture. Published in 1985 it was pre internet, email, Facebook, Twitter etc yet re-reading it has given me some food for thought.

We spend a lot of time on social networks and there are many who now claim it as an art, a skill, and by the looks of things a marketable skill, BUT, there is has to be a but, maybe all this time and effort we are putting into social networking is really just amusing ourselves to death.

In investing time and energy into social networking are we deceiving ourselves into believing we are being productive and all this effort is worthwhile. Maybe in a years time social networking will be so last year and there will be another genre of mass communication to amuse us.

Every now and again I re-arrange my office, re-order the way I work. Why? Because it is something that I can do.

There is an end product. It makes feel I am achieving something.

In reality I am rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

There truly are better ways to feel and be productive and maybe the 100 “tweets” I posted will make me feel productive but maybe I would have been better doing some real work!

“When a population become distracted by trivia, when a cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainment, when a serious public conversation becomes a form of baby talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; cultural death is a real possibility.” Neil Postman

[“Amusing ourselves to death” by Neil Postman is still available on Amazon as are several other of his books and what looks like an updated version of this classic.

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