We Only Hear What We Want to Hear, and It’s Ruining Us as a Society

Blackout Button

“Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had a Blackout button?”

Deep in the corner of game show obscurity lies Blackout, starring Bob Goen.  Ever heard of the Pyramid franchise?  This game show replaced The $25,000 Pyramid on the CBS daytime schedule back in 1988.  It was supposed to be the network’s next big hit, but it fizzled out after 13 weeks.  Two teams, each composed of one celebrity and one civilian, competed in this word game.  The object of the game was simple:  you spoke for 20 seconds about a person, place, or thing without actually revealing what you’re talking about.  The opposing team is armed with a “Blackout button” that allows them to censor up to seven seconds of the description in an effort to make identifying the clue as difficult as possible.

At the beginning of the show, announcer Johnny Gilbert would ask the home audience if it would be nice if everybody were equipped with a Blackout button.  In 1988, this was but a fantasy.  In today’s world, this is an actuality.  How so?  Two words:  social media.

We are all consumers of information, be it through television, print media, or even social media.  Up until the mid-2000s, the cycle of news consumption was, well, cyclical.  You would receive a recap of yesterday’s news while reading the paper, get up-to-date information while watching network or cable news, then receive a recap of that day’s events on the evening news.  That cycle would restart the next day.

Then social media happened.  People could post about events instantaneous to their occurrence.  A journalist no longer had to be the first person to report them.

But something else happened.  Individuals could now be more selective of when and where they got their news.  This particularly applies to the arena of politics.  If you’re a conservative, chances are great that you get your news from Fox News, Breitbart, or even the Drudge Report.  If you’re liberal, you may be more inclined to watch MSNBC or get information from a Facebook page such as “Occupy Democrats.”

Why do we do that?  Simply put, we like to hear what we want to hear.  When we want information, we are going to go to a news source that we agree with and get information instantaneously through social media or, to a lesser extent, television.

It justifies our stances on issues and demonizes others for their views.  This certainly hasn’t helped an already toxic political atmosphere in which either side believes their stance is the only correct one.  The electorate has become more polarized in the process, adding fuel to an already raging fire.  Can you solely blame social media for this?  Not particularly, but there is evidence that social media has contributed to this polarization problem.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had a Blackout button?”  We are living in a world where we can “blackout” what we don’t want to hear, and when we hear something we don’t want to hear, we can use our “block-out” button to remove them from online existence.  No wonder we are a society so divided.  Maybe if we did a little more listening and were less blissfully ignorant, then perhaps we could actually be better people.


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