I'm going to preface this advice with an admission. I'm fairly sure, by now, that there are plenty of scary pseudo-doctors who’d declare me severely addicted to the internet, although obviously I'd disagree.
Our generation has developed a fairly efficient, mostly-beneficial, codependent relationship with the internet. For us, the world online reflects the culture we directly experience in our everyday lives. Within this promising partnership, however, there are some potential pitfalls. I'm particularly worried about our rapacious consumption of media and entertainment in general.
This might seem like a broad concern, but I think it grows more and more pressing as we head further into the uncharted territory of the digital age. On one hand, our rapid digestion of art might be a natural consequence of the multitude of entertainment and information sources available to us all the time. But it also feels unendingly, unrelentingly, driven and perpetuated by our current obsession with ‘trends’.
The worry is that, if the cycle of consumption and demand continues to speed up, we’ll end up with a fundamentally diluted product. The state of some current entertainment seems to confirm this. Singers lack soul and heart, dramas lack humanity and poignancy. This is because, maybe, record labels and artistic industry heads are happy to affect the creative process in order to get the juicy, immediate, profit they see in front of them. Cash rules everything.
We’re not without blame ourselves, though. Our insatiable appetite for new entertainment - in the form of brighter spectacles, grander overtures and more dramatic scenes - has lead us to an unsettling place. A place where popular culture has become a footnote on a list of points to shout at each other about from behind a keyboard.
I’ll be the first to admit that I'm guilty of these things. More and more I find myself getting excited about an upcoming release, be it an album by a band I haven’t heard in a while or the sequel to a movie I remember enjoying, only to abandon the thing itself after an alarmingly short time. Maybe it’s just my own shallow appreciatory skills, but to me it feels as if popular culture itself now has a sense of urgency to it. It seems we’re encouraged to only look forward, to the next big thing, tantalisingly close but ultimately entirely fleeting.
Perhaps it’s the art itself. Maybe it no longer has the same gravitational pull in this world of perpetual distraction. Our generation’s attention spans seem ever-dwindling; how can we be expected to appreciate anything for an extended period of time? We’re taught that time is the most valuable thing, and not to waste it, but perhaps in 2014, we could do with a little guidance on how best to spend it.
Perhaps it’s not quite that bleak; perhaps, instead, it’s the nature of industries and markets to escalate, to become more efficient, and to make more money. Maybe we shouldn't let these forces govern our cultural tastes and, fundamentally, our expressions. We need to stop letting big business pollute cultural waters, and I believe the internet is the perfect tool to help us do that.
We need to turn the funnel that’s pumping this artistic stodge into our cultural landscape upside-down, and reverse the process; i.e. use the internet to expand our interests, in a real way, rather than having it narrow them. As this century really starts to kick off our generation has a choice to make: what state will we leave culture in? Before us stands the possibility of benefiting from and encouraging real artistic expression, crafted by real people like you and me, rather than by boardrooms, and I believe it’s an opportunity we should seize.