About Me

My Photo
I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, July 04, 2011



Thinking About: The Lives of Others

I’ve been lucky so far in the people I work with. To date I haven’t had the misfortune of working with people I don’t like or even actively dislike. The present team I’m a part of is no exception to this. We are a diverse lot from very different backgrounds who have, over the past few years, gelled together as a highly effective project management team. Inevitably though there is somewhat of a fly in the ointment.

About half of the team seem to be inordinately interested in the lives of other people. In our periodic downtimes between the crises we handle on a daily basis, when the conversations regarding work have been exhausted, the talk often turns to the public and private lives of those we work with. Some members of the team seem fascinated with the fashion and hair colour choices of those around us, others speculate on sexual orientation and holiday destinations, others gripe about people who bend (or possibly break) in-house rules and seem to get away with it. I’m sure that when I’m not around they talk about me too – though I can’t imagine what they say. I doubt if I give them much to gossip about. Of course when everyone’s habits have been discussed to death (again) the conversation will inevitably move onto the latest celebrity goings on, who is shagging who, who is having who’s baby and the rest, then there’s so-called reality TV and conversations about what X was wearing and that they never liked them anyway. After 20-30 minutes of this I sometimes want to scream. With what else is happening in the world their focus on trivia (which actually gives trivia a bad name) astounds me. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to face what’s really happening out there. Maybe they just can’t think about it without going off the deep end – so it’s The Apprentice and My Big Fat Greek Wedding instead.

I do wonder if their lives are so empty that they need to incorporate other people’s lives into their own to add a bit of sparkle. But this can’t be true. They have lives – partners, families, young children and everything else that goes with it. Surely it should be someone like me who needs to wrap themselves in other people’s every day existence to add something more to their lives. On the contrary, I struggle to understand why anyone is really interested enough in the lives of total strangers to be hooked on Big Brother and all of the other relentless prime-time TV shows that bring so-called ordinary people into our homes. It wouldn’t be so bad if any of these people where actually interesting. As far as I can tell they are far from it. Maybe, as has been put forward to explain the Jerry Springer phenomena, it’s that watching people who are basically fuck-ups makes the viewing audience feel good because no matter how bad our lives get at least we’re not as bad as those people. Maybe that’s it? Maybe my life just isn’t too complicated, too boring or too frantic for me to need to relax in front of the Box while watching other people’s lives fall apart? Maybe I’m not watching the numberless mind-numbing ‘Talent’ shows because I know that most of the people simply don’t have the talent of a hamster. The shows are designed not to sift out the talented ones but for us, the audience, to laugh at those who don’t have talent but only think they do. This, I’m afraid, is what passes for entertainment in the 21st Century and I will have none of it. But I digress……

The vast majority of people on this planet will forever remain strangers: Even those with thousands of Facebook ‘friends’ will remain ignorant of the lives of billions of other people. This is how it should be. The puerile interest in the failings, disasters and poor taste of people we will never meet and never know more than superficially through the medium of television honestly appals me. It panders to humanities baser instincts and we undoubtedly will regret the fact that we’ve let it become so pervasive. I have never understood the desire to poke and pry into other people’s lives and have no interest in doing so. It saddens me that so many people see this as entertainment. If this is human nature then I’ll be handing my membership card back – cut in half.     

8 comments:

Antimatter said...

Agree with pretty much all of what you said. I talk a load of rubbish sometimes as well but I'd like to think it's at least somewhat witty even when trivial, and not just mindless gossip.

I think it just took time for gossip etc to become a publicly accessible televised event. It's something people have been doing for time immemorial - in fact it's kind of surprising that its taken this long for much of televised product to turn into glorified yet painfully mundane (and low cost) reality shows.

CyberKitten said...

Hi AM. Thanks for you comments and welcome back to the wonderful world of Blogging.

How are things with you?

smellincoffee said...

I read somewhere that small talk is the human equivalent of social grooming, in that it strengthens interpersonal bonds. I almost think social grooming would be a better use of time, as listening to people go on and on about other people's business tends to irritate me. It's the reason I often say little around certain people, because every detail of my life will be invariably passed on to someone else over the phone, this time with commentary.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I don't think my group of friends and acquaintances do this. I know I don't. We talk about local events or national/international. We discuss what we're doing in our own lives (home renos, travel, cooking, etc.) and usually don't even discuss t.v. unless there's been a pretty dramatic event on a show we all watch, like the last two episodes of Game of Thrones. Wow, I didn't see that coming. I never read the books.

wunelle said...

I remember reading something a while back that talked about the value of gossip, evolution-wise. I forget the details, but there is some kind of pro-social glue that comes from concentrating on the other-ness of those not in the group, and on focusing on the choices and habits of others; we either reinforce that "our" way is better or we adopt their ways and make them our own (thus giving another way a clan might be in competition against another clan--which is such a part of our makeup).

Having said that, I agree that almost everything now in pop culture is worse than worthless, which is why I try never to watch TV.

Luckily, with all my workplace gripes, I have to put up with relatively little of this (apart from the discussions about the Fox News part of pop culture).

Antimatter said...

Hi CK, thanks... I'm good, feeling energized and ready to resume this whole blogging thing! I have been a lurker for the last couple of years but never signed in to this account - the sabbatical is over though!

CyberKitten said...

sc said: I read somewhere that small talk is the human equivalent of social grooming, in that it strengthens interpersonal bonds.

Indeed. I'd heard that too.

V V said: usually don't even discuss t.v. unless there's been a pretty dramatic event on a show we all watch, like the last two episodes of Game of Thrones.

I've heard it's very good. I'll have to check it out on DVD when its out.

wunelle said: Having said that, I agree that almost everything now in pop culture is worse than worthless, which is why I try never to watch TV.

Agreed. I hardly watch any TV these days. Even when I watch a TV show its normally only on DVD.

AM said: I have been a lurker for the last couple of years but never signed in to this account - the sabbatical is over though.

Excellent. I shall look forward to interesting conversations here and @ your place. Welcome back!

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Just a heads up, the first two episodes were so filled with graphic, doggy-style sex among the characters that I was totally turned off. By episode 3 they start developing the characters and the story lines and now I really like the show. So glad I stuck with it.