Randi Kreiss

News porn, food porn and shopping porn

Posted

Really, the world outside is conspiring to corrupt us. The mindless chatter is deafening, the distractions are pervasive and the temptation to indulge ourselves on every level is highly seductive.

Yesterday I was standing on the train platform in Jamaica, and watched a young woman, earplugs inserted, texting while her child toddled over the yellow line, way too close to the tracks. Only those of us not on our phones noticed and yelled a warning. The embarrassed mother started to scream at the little boy, who really had done nothing wrong.

People are moving around, believing they can walk and talk or walk and listen to music or drive a car and text or sit down to dinner with the family and also answer emails.

No news flash here. This isn’t a new cultural phenomenon, but it is becoming obscene. Walking through city streets yesterday, people were mentally AWOL as they sometimes moved along and sometimes just stopped and blocked the sidewalk while they texted a message. Pedestrians were oblivious to their immediate surroundings, inattentive to people standing within earshot.

On the LIRR, a woman was offering telephone therapy in a ridiculously loud voice to her daughter, who apparently was having issues of a personal nature with a boyfriend. Personal? Everyone in the train car had to listen to her advice on birth control.

Gradually, this public sharing of the personal and private has become acceptable behavior for many. Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram users publish details of their lives that might have been kept within the family before the internet. Are we losing any sense of discretion?

Who among us is able to carve out islands of silence or solitude in the midst of this public havoc?

The food we eat was once a private part of our lives. Now everyone takes pictures of their lamb chops and posts recipes, some for the most excessively fattening foods imaginable. And when we put down the phone or the computer, we turn on the TV and watch “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and watch really unhealthy-looking people gorging on fried food and barbecued everything.

If you turn to the news for a reasonable roundup of the day, you’re assaulted by the repetitive “breaking news” hysteria that has replaced intelligent coverage. If you watch the news while you flip back and forth to the food channel, it’s a perfect storm of excess and grease.

Since President Trump was elected, news porn has subsumed what used to be reasonable coverage of events. It’s a chicken-and-egg kind of thing. Did the chaotic nature of the administration make the news crazy, or is the crazy coverage affecting the White House?

We find excess in every arena. Once upon a time, when you wanted to go shopping, you went. It was a considered, proactive choice involving walking or driving to a store, selecting merchandise, checking out and coming home. I was never a motivated or skilled shopper, so online shopping serves me well. Still, what disturbs me are the excessiveness and intrusiveness of it all.

If I buy a pair of shoes online, the next time I try to do some research, I’m harassed and enticed and tempted by visual streamers on the screen, offering me more shoes and different shoes and cheaper shoes and even used shoes. Enough!

Perhaps I’m reacting to my own susceptibility to the dazzling online displays of goodies, from super-rich chocolates to rhinestone earrings that look like baby chandeliers. It’s all visual, but it feels noisy to me.

I use the word porn for these excesses in news, food and shopping because porn doesn’t necessarily suggest sexual material. In these cases, it suggests lurid and excessive indulgence.

This isn’t an all-or-nothing problem. By all means, we need to enjoy our food and follow the news and buy what we need to buy. The tricky part is keeping it all reasonable and appropriate and private. Dare I use the word “moderation”? It sounds so boring. Still . . .

To save our sanity, each of us, in our own lives and own spaces, must find time to think. That’s it, just think, with no external input. Sit in a park or in the house or take a walk and leave the devices behind. You’ll see and hear things you haven’t seen in a long time, such as the flash of a bird’s wing in the distance or the humming of late-summer insects.

Since Hurricane Harvey, there’s much talk about sheltering in place. The media intrusion into our lives is another kind of storm, and we need new skills to survive. We must give the gift of quiet observation to the next generation, or they will never learn how to take shelter in their own space.

Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.