Does our media consumption allow us to take seriously the world we are experiencing?
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
It struck me how strange and perverse it was for sexuality in such a naked form to be placed almost perfectly between the depictions of chaos that is consuming our world.
I have made peace with my at times unhealthy phone usage. I’m not one of those people who will sit on the toilet for half an hour with their phone doing nothing, but I am one of those people who will wake up in the morning and lie in bed for an inordinate amount of time reading news articles and scrolling through Instagram. As the war in Ukraine has transitioned into its fourth week, my newsfeed has transitioned from wider news and media to Ukraine battle updates and standard Instagram fare.
One moment stood out to me in particular in the past few weeks as I started my day. Sandwiched between a short video of President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking and an on-the-ground video depicting some of the Russian casualties of a Ukrainian ambush was a picture posted by one of the many Instagram models I follow. I liked all three posts in rapid succession, and then it struck me how strange and perverse it was for sexuality in such a naked form to be placed almost perfectly between the depictions of chaos that is consuming our world.
It made me think for a second about the dynamics that we now live in. On one hand, social media has allowed the voices and eyes of those fortunate enough to be in the west while suffering through these conflicts to be heard. The heartwrenching stories and images that make up war journalism are transported to us as fast as we can refresh our feeds and without the gatekeeping and editorial choices of traditional media. The video of an apartment building being shelled in Kharkiv can be witnessed in my home as if I was sitting in the neighbouring building. The sombre dread of those hiding in subway stations and underground parking lots can be explicitly shown to all of us on the internet at the very moment that the image is taken.
Yet, on the other hand, our news media can not help but interrupt the broadcasts of these shocking events with an advertisement by Applebee’s and our social media feeds will not stop displaying the glistening and seductive bodies that keep us engaged. We are transported in and out of some of the worst things that can happen to a nation at the click of a button and the swipe of a thumb yet I am not sure that we collectively are engaged and prepared to take these things seriously.
I wonder if we as a culture are just desensitized. Maybe between the bloody war movies and the video games that turn bullets and drone strikes into achievements we have lost the ability to take seriously the carnage and world change that we are facing. I wonder if by interspersing our innate love for nudity and arousal with the smoking debris of destroyed tanks and the twisted bodies of dead soldiers we are willingly devaluing the lives lost. Are we really capable as a young yet aging generation to take these global events seriously?
Perhaps I am oversensitive to these stories because the blood-spattered snow of Ukraine still turns my stomach and I am not sure that enough other people are paying attention. It might just be that war journalism is so close to my desired profession that I can’t imagine watching such horrifying images being buried beneath another twerking video or a thirst trap. Maybe I’m just soft. Still, the internet has brought us both a gift and a curse in what we can consume at will.