Two months ago, I wrote a 2,000 word long “minute-by-minute” recap of the season premiere of “The Game.” Since I wanted to post the recap at midnight that night, I wrote it while I was watching the show, and took the hour between 11pm and 12am to make edits and strengthen a few points and jokes. While watching the show and writing the recap, I also tweeted dozens of times, and updated both my personal Facebook page and fan page with my thoughts about the episode.
Oh, and I did the exact same thing for last year’s “The Game” premiere.
This — the fact that I completely immersed myself in “The Game” — is unremarkable. I was one of hundreds, thousands even, who wrote extensively about the show that night and the day after, and I’m sure many of them also sent as many tweets, texts, and Google chat messages about the premiere as I did. What is (somewhat) remarkable, though, is the fact that I willingly did this for a subject I get no joy from.
I have never been entertained by, intrigued with, or even interested in “The Game.” The premieres of the last two seasons are the only episodes of those seasons I’ve watched. Yet, between the time it took me to watch, write, and tweet and the time I spent reading and responding to comments left on my blog, I probably spent at least five hours completely consumed by it.
Even more remarkable is the fact that I’m definitely not alone. Between countless annual events (i.e.: awards shows, season premieres, etc), weekly regularities (i.e. episodes of “RHOA” or “Basketball Wives”), and more “spontaneous” occurrences (i.e.: Whitney Houston’s funeral, Oprah’s interview with the Houston family, etc), we’ve reached a point in our culture where, for many of us, the collective consumption of a subject matters more than the subject itself. Basically, we care infinitely more about what’s said on our Twitter timelines about Jim and Chrissy’s relationship on “Love and Hip-Hop” than we do about Jim and Chrissy’s relationship. (You could also make the joke that we care infinitely more about Jim and Chrissy’s relationship than Jim does, but that’s another topic for another day.) I allowed myself to be engulfed by “The Game” because I just wanted to be involved with and on top of a conversation many were having.
As hundreds of millions of us prove each February when we gather to watch a football game where only maybe 10% of the viewers actually care about who wins, this — the obsession with collective consumption — isn’t a new concept. What makes what we do now so new is A) We gather on social media, not in person and B) We consume, reflect, comment, and assess in real-time.
These developments have pretty much rendered the Monday morning water cooler convo — a staple of collective consumption — obsolete. When it comes to events of grave importance like the BET Awards or the NBA All-Star Game, what’s left to say and hear the morning after that hasn’t been said and heard in a smarter, snarkier, more emotive, and more meaningful manner already? Now, that morning after space is reserved for deconstruction, contrariness, and irreverent takes — all things that, years ago, wouldn’t have taken place until days after the event happened, not a day. Plus, we’ve made it so that there’s just too much information to consume and process to spend too much time on one thing
You can argue that we do this because, well, most of the stuff we currently consume just aint that interesting, so we need perpetual real-time commentary to keep us engaged. While I do agree with this, I think that our obsession with collective consumption is mainly just us trying to replicate the intimacy and interpersonal connections we lost as our technology evolved.
Yet, despite the apparent hand-wringing of the last 200 or so words, I don’t think that this culture of real-time collective consumption is a bad thing. I also don’t think it’s a good thing. It’s not disrespectful or distant or progressive or indicative of anything, either. It just is. That’s just the way we deal with things today, and you can’t put a value judgment on how we’ve evolved.
If it’s true that our mediums to consume are evolving quicker than our understanding of it, it’ll probably take us at least another decade or two to fully grasp what it means to consume so much that the only way any of it has any meaning is if we do it collectively. That day isn’t here yet, though, so please excuse me while I catch the “Real Basketball Wives of Hip-Hop” reunion special, and spend five to seven hours tweeting, blogging, and commenting about a 50 minute-long event that features a group of (relatively) uninteresting people I’d never let in my house.
Damon Young is the co-founder of the award-winning site Very Smart Brothas and co-author of Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime.” Follow him on Twitter: @verysmartbros