Click bait. Sensationalized. Misleading. Scandalizing. Social engineering.
No one likes to be duped, but we all are moved to be entertained. So why have authors resorted to using scandalous titles in order to get people to visit their material? Because unless it’s short, sweet, has numbers, and to the point – we don’t want it. The saying should have evolved by now to “don’t judge an online article by its title.”
What has caused the rift in our psyche to shift us toward seeking constantly to be entertained?
The word entertain holds several definitions 1. Provide with amusement or enjoyment 2. Give attention or consideration to an idea, suggestion, or feeling.
Our more general accepted meaning of the word would point to the first definition (hence why it shows first in the dictionary . . . even with definitions of words we need to be entertained . . .) however . . .
The strict etymology of entertain seems to give more indication for the second definition – inter (or entre’) -tenir (or tenet) in summary means to enter and hold. Or penetrate with principles (I.E. tenet of faith, etc.). So when something or someone entertains you, it/they have your attention and in some way make an impression on your psyche/person.
As a people we have taken the prime position “to be entertained” instead of “entertaining” our attention toward something.
With the culture of selfies and constant posting on social mediums, we are seeking the attention of others, we desired to be entertained – for someone to give consideration or their time to our endeavor. How many finger or thumb swipes do we enact on our phone until something grabs our attention and causes you to stop and click? (there has got to be a real stat on this . . .)
PERSONAL CONFESSION: even with this blog. WordPress gives you pretty detailed stats on how many views you receive, what pages people are reading, where they clicked on the link, etc. – and it’s a dent to my pride when I write what I believe to be fairly insightful . . . yet only a few dozen people may click on the links to read.
Writers have even resorted to using intentionally misleading titles in order to prey on reader’s desire for the scandalous. Recalling even one of the first articles I wrote for the TOB Institute was titled 5 Ways TOB Ruined My Life (click here for the link). Generated so many shares and thousands of views . . . all because of the title. The content was personal, but was not a piece of literary genius. It was simply a play on words for walls within my life that came crumbling down (were ruined) during my faith journey. I did not expect it to generate the response it did.
The title peaked at something contrary, something contradictory, something scandalous . . .
But what is a scandal? Being a word nerd . . .
Scandalous – causing general public outrage by a perceived offense against morality or law.
You catch that? My assumption would be that most people assume a scandal is that someone did something bad, got caught, and the news went public. But that is not the case. A scandal is the public’s misperception that something is wrong . . . however can be a quick judgment without knowing enough facts. So what do we do with scandalous circumstances? Hunny chile, we nosey.
Our curiosity pines for what we do not know. And why is this??? As the wise St. Augustine is credited “the deepest desire of the human heart is to know and be known.”
To know another and be known by another.
However instead of seeking intimate interpersonal connection with a few people . . . we have sought to be entertained by the masses of people who only know it’s your birthday because facebook told you, or you can make assumptions about their politics because of the posts they share, or because to unfriend someone is a legitimate way to express your own pain.
Hmm. But I think our true desire for seeking affirmation is this way is not our fear of loneliness, but our fear of being forgotten. The Greeks labored for one thing, their legacy, to be legen . . . wait for it . . . dary, legendary. And where do we echo the words to not be forgotten? From our dear Savior’s words we hear every time we go to mass . . . “do this in remembrance of me.”
One of the most moving parts of the movie “Woman in Gold” is the scene where she says goodbye to her parents. The last time she will ever see them, and the last words her father ever says to her are “remember us.” (Tears ROLL down my face every time this scene occurs).
Even now it’s customary on someone’s birthday to post pictures of you and the person. It’s a call to remember the good times that you have shared. Subtly saying “do not forget me! I’m worth your time!”
Commonplace has also taken root in that we are too busy to respond to text messages, call someone back timely. However I remember Father Mark Toups one time going through an exercise on a retreat that challenged everyone to write out the daily activities (everything). At the end of the exercise, not a one person could truly say they couldn’t devote certain time to prayer. We always have time, the key factor is we choose where want to give our time.
“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” Mumford and Sons.
Loving is choosing which people are worth our time, and truly appreciating those that give their time to you. If you notice, many times with a personal conversation or if I perceive the other is truly choosing to give me their time – I’ll acknowledge that gift. “Thank you for your time.” or “I appreciate your time.” Out of all the people or activities you could have ignored me with, you chose and deemed me worthy of your time.
We’ve lost touch with being entertained (impressed upon) by the simple, and enact our mode to nearly everything having to be legendary to be memorable.
- The concerts have to have more flashing lights.
- Your friends have to text you first.
- The movies have to have more nudity or swearing.
- There is a recorded Guiness world record for practically everything.
More more more.
How is it that we can remember entire episodes, quotes from TV shows, political articles that are shared . . . but we have difficulty remembering simple intimate things like a friend’s birthday, phone number, their favorite restaurant, etc.
We are allowing ourselves to be impressed by the wrong entertainment.
We need to stop and smell the roses. Seriously. Next time you see a rose, walk over to it . . . and take a slow intently sniff of its aroma.
Instead of texting about personal drama, invite your friend over for dinner and sit face to face.
I think this is one of the reasons why select musicians are so popular within certain groups of people. Alex Goot, Noah Gundersen, Penny & Sparrow, Boyce Avenue. Because they take songs that are complex and make them acoustically simple. Soft to the ears so the beauty can be easily received.
A little jump of points. But one of the ideas from the last post rings true here as well. The mindset of “let it be done” can only be received truly if you also have the comparable heart of “this is my body given for you.” To constantly be seeking state of being entertained or “letting it be done” is not healthy.
An idiom a friend once shared with me is “if you do not express on what you have been impressed it will result in you being depressed.”
The great saints did not simply sit idle and go to the most action packed movie, or desired concert. They sought to entertain others (give attention) to those what were in need. They desired to know others. They made a gift of self to others. This is love.
We need to place ourselves with a renewed mindset to the understanding of entertainment.
- That being entertained is not entirely bad, as long as we are impressed by something that is truly positive. Appreciation for truth, goodness, and beauty is inherent within our desire – we are made for it! However simply being entertained by the image of truth, goodness, or beauty is itself idolatry. Again, don’t be satisfied with the sign – but seek the signified.
- Entertaining others as a gift of self is an act of love. Not the twisted understanding that we have to “perform” for others. But the simple sacrifice of offering our attention and time can be a great act of love.
So next time you see that scandalous article title . . . don’t be disappointed when you are disappointed.
But when you see the simple . . . don’t be afraid to entertain the giver, for if you look past it, you will not receive the gift which they desire to give.
The TV show MadMen is about the advertising industry in the 60s. One line from the main character, Don Draper, is something I remember all the time pertinent to our close.
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Peace be with you.