We live in a culture obsessed with the latest trends. We’re constantly searching for the next big star, the latest fashion, and cutting edge advances in technology. The 24 news cycle feeds into our fixation by announcing “Breaking News” for even trivial stories. Online search engines such as yahoo.com list the top ten “trending” stories of the day, which are constantly in flux. Most of the trending news involves celebrities, especially new celebrities. You can easily imagine the stories we might encounter tomorrow: “Justin Bieber Gets a Haircut,” “Lindsay Lohan Back in Rehab,” “Ryan Seacrest to Host Every Single Show on TV.” What’s behind the public appetite for what’s trending?
First, let me qualify my remarks. Certainly we should stay appraised of current events. As members of a global community, we should develop an awareness of the issues and events that shape our world. By developing a global consciousness, we become better able to respond to international crises such as the earthquake in Haiti last year and to speak out against oppression and violence. So I’m not talking primarily about “trending” world events. Instead, I’m talking more about trending news in entertainment, sports, fashion, etc. When you track the stories that get the most media attention on any given day, you begin to notice the media obsession with trending news in these industries.
What’s wrong with interest in celebrity news and other high-profile persons and events? Nothing, when it’s seen in the proper perspective. The problem arises when we it begins to dominate TV and internet news, which simply reflects viewer interest. It means that we’re becoming more voyeuristic, more superficial, more interested in the lives of strangers that our own lives. In short, it becomes a distraction.
More specifically, over-exposure to what’s trending distracts us from what’s enduring. If we’re constantly looking at the lives of celebrities and reality stars, we begin to lose sight of the sacred value of our own lives and God’s plan for us and our relationships. Most of us don’t show up on TMZ, but that doesn’t mean our lives are less important than theirs. We shouldn’t try to live vicariously through the lives of the famous; instead, we should recognize the infinite value of our own lives and the imperative to live life to the fullest. Only you can improve your relationships with others. Only your can impact the world around you. Only you can cultivate your soul. On your death bed you won’t say: “I wish I spent more time learning about Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes.’” When you stand before your Maker, you will not be quizzed on Miley Cyrus’s youthful escapes.
So should we stop consuming trending celebrity news altogether? Yes, if it has become obsessive, which it seems to have become, at least on a cultural level. If it’s distracting you from celebrating your life, enriching your relationships, and focusing on your ultimate destiny, you should walk away from it altogether. If it’s just a casual “guilty pleasure,” then carry on. I may or may not join you from time to time (Who doesn’t love Anthony Hopkins and Denzel Washington? Who doesn’t think Ryan Goslin’s an underappreciated actor? Who doesn’t want to know more about Sidney Crosby’s point streak?). But beware of allowing what’s trending distract you from what’s enduring.