Sheila Njau ’17
I rarely pick up a newspaper or watch the news to learn more about current events. However, what I do find interesting (or more accurately, sad) is the fact that I know an inordinately large amount of information about celebrities. I can usually tell people how many times someone has been married, how many children they have, and all the movies they have starred in, even if I have not watched that movie. But then ask me about the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and my mind is mostly blank. Yes, I know that these problems exist, but I couldn’t tell you in what context they occurred or how severe they are.
This issue, however, did not really hit home for me until a few weeks ago when I went to Google News and the top story of the day on Dennis Rodman and his entry into rehab for alcoholism. Then, the second top story was that fourteen people had died in a bombing. I was astounded. It’s very good that Dennis Rodman made the decision to enter rehabilitation. However, when one celebrity’s decision to seek mental help eclipses the loss of many innocent lives, something has to change. What is even worse is that this is not an unusual incident. There are multiple times when a celebrity does something such as break up with their significant other, win an award, or say something that is “controversial” and these takes trivial events take precedence over problems that other countries may be facing. And these problems in other countries are often a matter of life and death.
The fact that we focus on celebrities as opposed to world problems is not something new. But, it leaves me wondering: Why? I do appreciate and anticipate the different series I watch on a weekly basis. However, what is the cost of our guilty pleasures? I think of my younger cousins and how the shows they consistently watch include “My Little Pony” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” And yet, what do they know of what is going on beyond the United States? How much do they know about what is going on beyond the state of Massachusetts? Sadly, not much. If you ask my cousin about Taylor Swift, she could probably give you a whole biography and most of the lyrics to her songs. That alone is impressive. But, at the same time, how beneficial is it to know all the lyrics to “You Belong With Me?” How beneficial is it to know the entire storyline of “Scandal” by heart? It isn’t beneficial, especially when people are dying on a daily basis in various areas across the country and the world. Americans can’t seem to focus our attention on serious issues and instead we pursue enjoyable, light-hearted news.
After taking a look at Google News today, it was good to see that the top story was not something that a celebrity had done. As sad as death is, especially to innocent people, it is good to hear and learn about these incidents. I firmly believe that knowledge is the first step towards finding ways to resolve the problems that we are facing today. And not surprisingly, a story about Justin Bieber’s arrest came in fourth place while a break-in at Selena Gomez’s house made fifth. These two stories managed to come before a story about Syria’s civil war and the funeral of Avonte Oquendo, an autistic 14-year-old who went missing in October.
Some might say that if I wanted to learn about what is going on in the world, then I should subscribe to a newspaper such as The New York Times or The Boston Globe. But, in this day and age, so much information is available at our fingertips because of the Internet. Is it too much to ask that the more relevant news stories come first? I think of the younger kids who would have no inclination to pick up a newspaper, but would not face a similar qualm about going online. If this news were made more visible online, then the reign of stories such as who Taylor Swift is would go into a steady decline.
I’m not saying that I want to give up watching my shows any time soon, especially at the end of a long day. But, it wouldn’t hurt to know less about celebrities and more about what is going on in the world. I am not trying to assume that many people face a similar problem of being uninformed. There are many who read the newspapers and watch news channels on a daily basis. For those of us who do not, maybe it’s time to do better. After all, aren’t we all a part of one world?