A mildly interesting and infinitely more sad moment happened this week; the Gangnam Style video reached the 1 billion download mark on You Tube. I am not classifying this as sad because it knocked Justin Bieber off the ‘most downloaded video of all time’ but because surely to heavens we have a better use for social media and video in particular. It was already sad that Mr Bieber sat on top of that particular statistic anyway. Does it not strike you as a damning criticism of our culture that this nonsense is sought out above all else? I’m putting my cards on the table and saying that we are missing the boat here if we allow ourselves to dilute the effectiveness of video and the Internet in general by encouraging this drivel. I love a laugh and a good time as much as anybody, in fact my pursuit of a giggle has caused me heartache on many an occasion, but seeing such mindless transient twaddle being catapulted to the top of our collective conscience is truly disappointing. We hear so much about the misplaced hope people put in having a video that goes ‘viral’ believing it to be the door opener for untold riches. All conventional wisdom tells us that, while it might be a good thing initially, in the long run it is a poor substitute for long term quality content , syndicated properly. There seems to be a voyeuristic gene in all of us and the temptation to watch other people in distress or making fools of themselves is more potent than all else; hence Gangnam Style and all manner of other ridiculous exploits we have latched on to over the recent years. My personal video watching on the Internet is extensive and I tend to seek things which I think are edifying. I cannot for the life of me understand why people watch anything else BUT watch they do. When the masses watch ‘entertainment based’ video predominantly, we need to be sure that the ‘entertainment’ is educative as well as fun. Personally, I enjoy TED talks, the Khan Academy and much of the BBC pod-cast library, yes I understand that my tastes are not those of others but here is the point: if we as producers of content stopped providing junk for people to watch we would not have to suffer the effects of it being everywhere we look. In some ways we are our own worst enemy, every time we churn out another piece of ‘low-brow’ content we will get the ‘low-brow’ response. This is such a terrible shame as we could be inspiring and educating our consumers and challenging them to do more rather than to do the minimum. Looking further down the line , what will happen to our beloved medium of expression if we continually devalue it? Someone will come in and tell us that we need to use it differently and regulate what we do. If that happens the Internet as we know it will be dead and be consigned to the litany of great ideas stifled by authority.
Perhaps I sound like some fuddy duddy bore chastising everybody for having fun ….. probably I do! What I do think is that we have along way to go before we are using this medium to the best advantage of all. I hope , every day little by little, you are involved in efforts to knock Gangnam off the top of those charts , not because we dislike fun but because we know there is so much more we can do. see you on the long and winding road…… Patrick